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Going to the Land

Memories

8:49 min. - Many stories came out of the portage paths, both good and bad memories. The following are some of them.

Transcription

Joseph Bernard - Many among us experienced famine, and some were so badly affected they could no longer walk. One day we might kill a partridge, and then nothing at all the next day. At times we had to settle for a squirrel and a pine grosbeak. My grandfather dismembered the squirrel and plucked the bird. He heated them over a flame before boiling them, because we would be drinking the broth. Georges, my mother's husband and my stepfather, was badly affected. He could hardly walk. On the way back, following the same trajectory we took to get there, we came across an abundance of food: porcupines. They had gnawed the trees. But in the place we had come from, we saw hardly anything at all, except for a partridge or a hare from time to time. It was really hard to live through a famine.
Once I saw my grandfather visit a sick person and build a sweat lodge over him without moving him. That's how my grandfather healed him. He blew very hard on the spot that carried the illness. With the first breath, the sick Innu said he felt a light sensation. With the second, he said the breath was trying to pierce him. With the third, when my grandfather blew harder, the sick Innu reacted and the illness came out through his mouth. They removed his clothing and replaced it with dry garments, then left him to sleep. In the evening, he managed to get up, then to sit the next day. Four days later, he was up and about. The man has been cured since that day. The sweat lodge is powerful medicine.
Julienne Malec - I got married around July 28. I didn't know I would. Kasheta, my future husband, knew, and told me. Six days after our wedding, we began our trip inland. It was August 2 and we set out towards Metshu Nipi, Eagle Lake. Since we formed a group of 5 families, there were 5 canoes and 5 tents. That's how I set out for the bush after my wedding. We spent the fall in the bush. Then, in December, as our trip inland was over, we began the descent in toboggans, following the Natashquan River. We set out from the Mash Kanutshiat region and spent Christmas at Bear Lake. (Mashkunipi) On Christmas Eve we prayed, then had a great feast. We ate porcupine, beaver and caribou fat.
Pierre Mckenzie - We headed back up the Mishta Shipu River (Moisie) on August 4. Some Whites took us to the first portage in their motorboats. That was the last time we would see any Whites till the following June. The first portage was 6 km long, and it took travellers 2 days to cross with their luggage. In some cases, it took 6 weeks to travel the distance between the sea and Meneik, the traditional territory. Large families had to make up to 4 trips per portage. We could catch salmon all the way up to Kakatshat, a very long portage that led to the plateaus 700 metres higher. From this point on, salmon was replaced by lake trout (Kukumess). The adults shared the luggage in the canoes to help those with many children. On the other side of the portage, there was a current. It enabled us to use long poles, which were faster than oars. We used the poles as far as Metsenipi where we drove them into the river bed. We no longer needed them because we had reached the separation of the waters. Here, the current began to flow North, and we followed it. There are 305 portages of all sorts between the sea and Schefferville. I recall a canoe that capsized with Athanas in it. He managed to carry his wife and one of his children to a nearby island. But, when he went back for his other children, he himself also drowned. They only found them in the Spring. We think the mother died of grief, because, when they found her body, she held a scarf to her eyes as if she had been crying.
Music - Rodrigue Fontaine, Bill St-Onge, Luc Bacon, Lauréat Cormier

Pierre McKenzie, an Innu from Matimekush, recounts one of his trips in the bush
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2 Comments

dominique normand 2 years, 10 months ago

Très touchant, comme si j'y étais. Des témoignages précieux, des images invitantes.

genevieve st-onge 5 years, 8 months ago

Merci pour ce beau temoignage.Cela me fait voir la vie de mes ancestres . Je suis honorer par ce temoignage et là je peux voir le trajet de mes arrière arrière parents.


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15 Related words or expressions

kapatauat
they’re portaging
kassekau
fall
matapeshtau
he finishes portaging
minishtiku
island
nakatshun
at the foot of the rapids
natai-kukushu
going upriver using a pole
nishtamitikutsheu
he rows in front
pakauat
they disembark from the canoe
piutamu
he descends the rapids in a canoe
takuaitsheu
she directs the canoe
uashtessiu
the trees are changing colour
uauakashkuaimuat
they row along a winding waterway
uishitshiminana
lingonberries
uiushuat
they carry baggage on their backs
ushkuepakau
birch forest



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