Ojibwa tales by an elder, 4
By First Nations Artist Nokomis
During the bitterly cold winter months my father … and most other men … headed out in all directions to their traplines carrying flour, some sugar and maybe some baking powder, their traps, a hatchet, a gun…and their hunting knives, of course.
Wives and children stayed home… trappers widows, so to speak. It was a lonely life for everyone.
That’s why we knew we could drop in unannounced and be welcomed with outstretched arms, a pot of tea and a bowl full of whatever was simmering on the stove. Cups and bowls were scarce, but we either shared, waited our turn or maybe just got creative and made a container from a broken birchbark basket or carved a rough bowl from a piece of firewood. You’d learn to do the same thing if money was short and there were no stores to shop in anyway.
Food wasn’t an issue. Mom would have put some flour and baking powder in the bags we were carrying along with anything perishable. Meat was never an issue. In those days, any self respecting six year old Ojibwa child could provide meat for supper by setting snares on the rabbit trails. By the time we were eight many of us could be trusted to go out and shoot the rabbit instead.
We knew that we’d be sleeping on the bare floor using our coats as blankets. Sounds rough, but the alternative was to construct a lean-to outside and make a bed of spruce branches piled two or three feet high. If we had to do that we’d build a long fire…one that stretched the entire length of the lean-to and about four feet away. If the logs were large enough it would burn through the night and keep us warm because the heat from the roof of the lean-to would reflect the warm air back down on us. Before I started school we used to do that when we lived on the trapline.
It was always fun visiting friends, but eventually we’d go home and often we’d find that another mother and her kids were waiting for us with the water on the boil and some soup in the pot.
Part two: Saga of the New Stove
Part three: Picking Berries