When one tells a story, there is much for one to know from it. When we listen to a woman telling of what she is capable of, that is where there is a lot of woman’s capabilities. Today, we seem to I’^e many things of how it was like long ago. Today, the young girls don’t know the capabilities of a woman. When one tells a story of when one was in the bush of how a woman helped out in what a man is capable of, that is what I call woman’s capabilities – a woman doing what a man does.
I will tell a little story of woman’s capabilities when in the bush. What a man does, a woman is also capable of doing that. That is what is called woman’s capabilities. Occasionally when a man hunts and even when he hunts all day, he isn’t able to catch anything. When a woman does a little hunting close by, sometimes that is where the food comes from – from the little hunting she has done. I remember a man hunted all day and he didn’t bring anything home. Occasionally, it was the woman who brought something for her children to eat when she hunted.
Once I remember when I was still quite young. It is like I dream. Only at times is when I am aware. I think I was four years old at the time of this story. My grand mother was still alive – my father’s mother. I think I was the only child around. My father left to go hunting. I guess we had a lack food. My father left very early in the morning and I think my mother left to go fishing also. I only clearly remember my grandmother saying to me, “I will dress you so we will leave also.” I think she cut firewood first before we left.
I don’t think we had eaten that morning. I distinctly remember my grandmother dressing me. “I will cut firewood first and you will play outside,” she said to me. I clearly remember when she said that to me. I guess I was outside. I saw her preparing the toboggan. She said to me, “We will leave also.” I guess we left. I think she pulled me on the toboggan.
I then saw a large mound of snow. My grandmother put my little snowshoes on me. She said, “Walk around here so you won’t get cold.” I don’t remember what my grandmother was doing. Then I guess I was anxious to see her because I started to cry. I went to where she had went. Then I heard her saying to me “Grandchild, don’t cry.” I looked to where the huge mound of snow was and that was where I saw my grandmother shovelling the snow. This mound was a large rock. I stopped crying as soon as I saw my grandmother. I guess I just stood there.
She came down and she had something wrapped in a cloth. I , remember her saying as she comes down approaching me, “Come on and let’s go home, grandchild.” “I will make your bannock when we get home.” I was happy because I thought she would use flour. We went home. I guess she pulled me home on the toboggan.
When we reached our dwelling, there was no one home yet. She immediately made a fire in the stove. I guess I was cold because I remember I was crying. I think it was my feet that were cold. She placed me close to the stove and said, “Sit there and I will cook your bannock.” She placed the cloth wrap near the stove and opened the cloth. It was rock lichen that she had removed from that rock. There was a lot and they were like large sheets. I don’t remember how she made the bannock. I guess she made it using that rock lichen.
I remember that we ate rock lichen many times. I wonder how my grandmother prepared that rock lichen. She said to me, “I will make your bannock.” Maybe she made them into a soup. That was what we always ate. That is where one can understand from my story of how much a woman tried to help out when there was hunger.
When I still wasn’t able to hunt, I also remember my mother hunting. She first cut a lot of firewood before she left. When I took care of my younger sibling, she brought in the firewood. She used to say, “So you won’t go out much and leave your younger sibling alone.” When she was leaving, she used to say to me “Come out first.” She gave me a snow shovel and said “When you see fire falling and if it starts to burn, use this snow shovel to shovel the snow on to the fire.” She used to bring snow inside our dwelling and place it under the stove because that was where the fire fell and it would start to burn. She placed a lot of snow under the stove and she made a knife ready. She used to say to me “If our dwelling burns, cut your younger sibling loose and take her outside and wrap her in a blanket.” She made a knife ready because my young sibling was always tethered. That was where I was taught how much a woman wanted to help out. What a man did, a woman also wanted to do and that is what is called woman’s capabilities. That is what we are losing – that which a woman did to help out and the work she did outside.
Even when we’re in the bush, it seems that our tasks get easier to do because of the things we use today. The woman doesn’t touch the firewood today. It is the man who get the firewood. Long ago, the man didn’t touch firewood at all because the woman did all the work of gathering firewood. Today as things are easier to do because of the things we use, it seems as though that the man is the one who mostly does work outside. The young people, today, don’t know that which is said to be woman’s capabilities We should help the man with what he does outside and not to think that the man should do all the work outside because there are other things that he wants to do – that which a man enjoys doing. That was where I was taught many things, when I was still living with my parents. I saw my mother helping out my father when they were raising us. She, too, tried to hunt.
I think that was where I was taught many things. That is how we will look like if we teach the young women because the men teach their sons different things. For us, women, there is much for us to teach our daughters such as to respect what their husbands had harvested. Today I don’t think that a woman takes care of what has been harvested by her husband. It seems like she gives it across to her mother to take care of it. Long ago, the women really wanted a girl to learn what to do with what has been harvested and to respect the person who harvested the food for her. What has been harvested, we should respect it because we all know where it come from – that which we are given to eat each day.
In the miichiwaahp is where there is much teachings for a woman to be taught – to respect the food that has been brought and also about the firewood. I was told that the firewood should not be placed at the entrance. I was told “Never place firewood at the entrance but always erect them at either side of the entrance.” I was taught that if you place the firewood at the entrance, food will not be able to come in because you block the food that is coming in. Always make it look nice at the entrance and replace the boughs. When food is brought in, that is where food will be brought in. That was what I was told also. Even though I don’t live with anyone, I still try to do that. I always do that where I do my little cooking in my miichiwaahp.
I let my miichiwaahp stand all winter. Before I left it in the fall, I took out all the boughs. It was very clean and nice when I left it. It will be nice and clean when I make a fire inside the next time when I do a little cooking for myself. When a woman takes care of a miichiwaahp, that is all woman’s capabilities. Her capabilities come from the care of the miichiwaahp. That is her work inside and to make it nice inside. I never think “It will look like that since there is no one to see it.” I never think that even though I don’t have anyone to live with. When I leave my miichiwaahp, I put things in order and cover the things that I use. I never think “Since there is no one to see it, I will leave it looking like that.” I was taught to make the miichiwaahp nice inside. Inside the miichiwaahp, there is a lot of teachings for young women to be taught. In the miichiwaahp is where the young women should be taught and shown what they should do.
When I live with children, I teach them inside the miichiwaahp. When I am in the house, I simply talk to them and tell them of things. I lived with two children in the spring once – a boy and a girl. I used to place them inside the miichiwaahp and I used to tell them the names of the sticks that lay across. Many of those poles have names and I told them. “The sticks that you use to cook with all have names,” I told them. I told them, “Your parents might ask you what we have taught you,” I told them. I said to them “They might ask you what I called this but they might not care of what we have taught you.” I asked them, “What will you say to them.” They just shrugged their shoulders as the youth do, today, when they are talked to. The boy said “I don’t know.” He said “I will say that she named it very hard.” At times, they gave^ra try to pronounce what I called the wooden sticks that are used for cooking – the roasting sticks and the over the fire cooking sticks. That is what I do with the youth when I live with them. I place them inside the miichiwaahp and teach and tell them of things. Inside the miichiwaahp is where the youth can teach themselves a great deal when they shown’ right away what they are taught.
That is what I use my miichiwaahp for. When I live with children, I call my miichiwaahp a school. What the children are taught, that is where they can teach themselves. Even though some children are talked to, they don’t know the meaning of some things that are talked about. When they are shown what is meant, they will know. Even though I live with my children, they don’t understand some of the things I mean to this day. Only until I can able to explain what I mean in the little English I have, they understand me.
Other children must be worse off – not understanding the stuff being named and what is meant. I don’t think a child will know if they are only talked to and if they are not shown what they are taught. In the miichiwaahp, much comes from there for young women to be taught. They can be taught many of the woman’s capabilities.
I cannot talk very much because you have been told a lot already. I heard many times of someone telling woman’s capabilities. For some of us who are becoming the elders, we still haven’t fully grasped the understanding of a woman’s capabilities.