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Going to the Land


7:57 min. - The return of August, when people went back into the bush, was greeted with great enthusiasm. The Bellefleur family from Unaman-shipu (La Romaine) had about a dozen canoes and five or six tents. They had to reach a place called “Ushakamesh” (place of many fish).


Zacharie Bellefleur - We anticipated the arrival of August, when we would return to the bush, with great enthusiasm. The Bellefleur family from Unaman-shipu had about 10 canoes and 5 or 6 tents. Trapping started on November 3. Therefore, we had to reach a place called Ushakamesh, "the place where there are many fish", before that date. We set up our first camp not far from the departure point, at the mouth of the river. The captain knew that abundant quantities of red berries grew there. Grandfather Penashue was the captain of our Bellefleur clan. When trapping was over, we began the descent to the village, one stage at a time, stopping at the caches where we had left supplies. By the time the snow had melted, we were back in the village.
Narrator - Zacharie Bellefleur remembers a family trip when he was still a child, a trip to the traditional land in the direction of Tshishe-shastshit. Halfway into the expedition, at a portage somewhere between Unaman-shipu and Tshishe-shastshit, the Bellefleurs found a letter in a tree. The letter advised travellers to go back from where they came, since Tshishe-shastshit was hit by a measles epidemic. Penashue Bellefleur and his clan had to turn around and head back to Unaman-shipu. If a mortality occurred on the land because of an accident or sudden death, the remains were enclosed in a wooden chest that was left on an island. On their way back toward the coast, the family picked up the body and brought it to the village.
Louis Basile - My grandfather lived in the bush year-round. He left in the fall and stayed even through the summer. Instead of heading to the coast in July, he went towards the tundra, where there are neither blackflies nor trees, but wind. When we left to portage towards the St-Jean River, we followed it all the way down to the Romaine River, then on to Lake Brulé and Atikunuk, in the direction of Goose Bay. These portages were wide in the past. Now, they're blocked. We brought some food on these trips, flour, tea, lard etc., and a bit of tobacco. When almost nothing was left, that was the signal to stop and hunt for food. Then we set our first fur traps. Several families camped here and there in various spots and only saw each other every 3 or 4 months. Everything was decided by the elder, including our fall camping spot. The elders discussed things amongst themselves, and we followed. If I go into the bush for 2 or 3 months, I sense that I need to apply my grandfather's teachings. And that's what I do.
It's important to possess this traditional knowledge in the bush. For example, the fact that you walk obliges you to make snowshoes. And you need lacing for your snowshoes. Therefore, you'll have to kill a caribou if you want to have all the equipment you'll need for the winter. It's the same with food. Will the food you've brought be enough for the length of your stay? If you haven't brought enough, you'll have no choice but to catch a caribou. My grandfather's father said that it's the grandfather who passes on his knowledge to his grandson.
Shimun Basile - We're going that way, paddle on the other side.
We have to go that way.
Music - Rodrigue Fontaine, Bill St-Onge, Luc Bacon

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