Place and Culture
Activities were seasonally based, in order to make use of what was happening with the land and also to emulate what was happening with the land. Plains tribes, from which some Metis are descended from, are nomadic peoples. The Metis carried on this aspect of the Plains culture by incorporating their way of life with that of the bison hunt. A nomadic people are able to move quickly and easily over diverse terrains and because following the same trails is easier than breaking new trail, there would be sites that would be repeatedly used. The regular use of these camping or stopping over sites would over time have specific stories attached to them. The stories would revolve around something that happened in that specific area.
There were several reasons for the Metis to leave their cabins/wintering sites during the summer months. The major reason was for economic purposes, during the buffalo hunting era, the buffalo they harvested was for their winter protein source but it was also their trading commodity with the voyageurs/fur trade movers. The Metis provided pemmican to the fur trade.
Later on, the Metis travelled during the summer in order to harvest berries, plants and other food stuffs. It was also a time of visiting and gathering in larger groups, renewing old friendships, establishing new ones, creating new families with the young ones courting each other.
"Our beloved, beautiful land"
Ota ki’ chapanow kah pimseek
"This is where our great grandmother lies"
There is no evidence of measles being a depopulating epidemic and reports of incidence were not fully reported until after 1924. The depopulating epidemics reported in history books were smallpox, typhus, cholera, influenza and yellow fever. It is difficult to estimate the impact of these epidemics as the spread of disease was in advance of anyone who would have recorded the populations. There are some estimates that the populations of Indigenous peoples in the Americas was decreased by up to 73%. (Sask Encyclopedia) Smallpox was especially severe and shares some similar presenting symptoms so perhaps this is why the old woman was considered to have died from measles. Or it could also have been a case of being lost in translation from an Indigenous language to English.
Buried in the old way
This method of laying the dead to rest was by putting the body on a scaffold that was about 6 ft above the ground, usually up on a hill or sometimes the body would be placed in a large fork in a tree. Placing dead bodies above the ground was sometimes preferred when the person died in the winter and the ground was frozen. The Lakota also state that this method prevented people or animals walking on the grave, or the body lying in mud or water after the spring thaw, and also prevented animals such as wolves from digging up the remains and eating them. (Wikipedia)
Sputnow ki chapanow kah pimseek
"The hill where our great grandmother lies"
Giving an offering is a sign of respect for anything that is considered sacred, it is an honoring of the person/ancestor/relative that came before.
Still loved and not forgotten
Remembering those that have passed away and honouring them with gifts, this practice is also about showing respect and reverence with the offering of items that had economic and/or survival value.
Speak on our behalf in the spirit world
This concept is a strong tenet of Indigenous belief systems, sometimes the spirits of ones who have passed on do not want to leave but they are not really in this realm either and so they become a go-between or a translator between the physical realm and the spirit realm. The offerings act as a payment for the request for help. There is always an exchange of something of value, the practice of reciprocity, whether the interaction is between humans or between humans and other realms such as animal, plant or spirit.
Old Lady Lake
Only the old ladies
There are specific roles and responsibilities that come with advanced age and wisdom, some of the ones that have been identified among older women was their work as midwives and at the other end of life, with the preparation for death and dying. They had attained the appropriate level of respect, reverence and protocol required when working with medicines and other sacred items.
There was a thriving medicine exchange/trading system in the Americas prior to contact and continued on afterward, up until free movement of the Metis and First Nations became inhibited with the imposition of colonial systems. There continued to be an economic activity in relation to specific plants during the early to mid 20th century. Seneca root was the most commonly collected and sold plant among the Metis and First Nations in the specific territory discussed here. There also continued to be local trading of medicines, as well as annual harvesting for personal, family and community use.
Midwives for birthing and dying
There were always community healers, people that had been trained in the medicines and the treatment of illnesses, broken bones, and other health concerns that befall human beings. For Metis communities, the healers that looked after two important stages of life – birth and death – were the old ladies, the grandmothers and great grandmothers. As Maria Campbell says “It’s an old lady that brings you in, and an old lady that takes you out.” (Anderson, 2011, p. 159)
Old Man Hills
There were always gender differences, different roles and responsibilities according to gender. This does not mean that women didn’t hunt, but that men were responsible for hunting larger game such as moose and deer. Their physicality and strength was needed to butcher and carry the large game animals back to the camp. Women hunted but more often than not it was smaller animals like rabbit and grouse.
Oldest Sister Prairie
Long Rolling Hills
Net Throwing River
The majority of Indigenous peoples come from an oral tradition; this means all their knowledge is passed on orally, most often in story form. Not everyone was considered a Storyteller, there were certain individuals that were chosen to carry the stories in their original form. But everyone told stories, as nomadic peoples this was how relationships were established, and histories passed one. In the dead of winter, when it was too cold, or the snow was too deep for any movement outside – stories were what helped pass the time. The stories would be told differently depending on the teachings that were going to be passed on and also who was the audience. There are protocols for storytelling, there are seasonal stories, sacred stories, family and community stories. Regardless of the type of story, the location was based on the peoples’ traditional territory.
Einowuk ooma kiyanow, Michif’s, Neheyawak. Ekwa kahkiyow oota kah ki ashtat kotahwinow, pisiskoouk, kah pimihawchick, muskiki atoquak, asiniyak, nipi, kah kiyow e wakohtumak. Ki wahkomakan nowwak.
All my Relations
These three ‘simple’ words taken together describes the complex inter-relationship among Indigenous peoples and the world around them. As Leroy Little Bear (Blackfoot Scholar) states within many Indigenous worldviews: “Everything is more or less animate. If everything is animate, then everything has spirit and knowledge. If everything has spirit and knowledge, then all are like me. If all are like me, then all are my relations.” (Little Bear, 2000) This understanding of the world is profoundly different from the western world view, it places humans on the same level as everything else, compared to the hierarchical view of Euro-western where humans are at the top.
kawkiyew ki wakomakanaknowak
In the social accountability sphere, privilege is often referred to as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people, and most often nothing was done to earn it eg. white, male privilege. But the definition of the word also refers to privilege being invisible, as in you are not aware of it, until someone points it out or through the process of self-reflexivity. In this context, privilege is about having been raised on the land, learning from the elders, having family always around – a big difference to what many Indigenous peoples find themselves in today.
Grew up on the land
Indigenous peoples have always had a strong connection to the land, to their specific territory where generations have been born and raised. The land is also referred to as Kikawinow, our Mother and the relationship is borne out in the everyday interactions and activities. Children were taught the values of reciprocity, love, kindness, generosity, respect, kinship and all were reflected in teachings and interactions with the world around them. The land was also the teacher, you had to know landmarks, you had to know where to find water, where to find animals, where to find medicines, where to find food – it was about survival. Later on, some of those skills were transferable to surviving in the colonized world, but in other cases the loss of a land base has prevented future generations from learning those same skills.
the language of the Metis is Michif, a combination mostly of Cree and French but also English and Ojibwe. It was created in the early 1800s and became the widely used language of the Metis in the 1800 and 1900s. Today Michif is facing the same uncertain future as many Indigenous languages, there are fewer than 1000 speakers and it has been listed as an endangered language. (The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2016).
Escaped residential school
The Indian Act was created in 1876 as the major piece of controlling legislation for Registered Treaty Indians in all of Canada. Although Residential Schools were originally established by churches, the federal government funded them for the majority of their operations, as they were seen as the most cost-efficient and effective means of assimilating Indians into the settler society. Compulsory attendance at Residential schools was written into the Indian Act in 1920. Metis were the ‘forgotten people’, and the Indian Act did not apply to them, therefore they were not required to attend residential schools. Although there were many Metis children that attended even though it was not compulsory. ¬The churches never dropped their interest in providing residential schooling to Métis children. Th¬e Anglicans, for example, opened hostels for Métis children in the Yukon in the 1920s and the 1950s, and in Alberta, Catholic-owned residential schools maintained a high enrolment of Métis students. (TRC, 2015)
Black car and the Scoops
The Scoops refers to the practice of the provincial child welfare system of removing children (both First Nations and Metis children) from their families and communities and placing the children in non-Indigenous homes and prior to their closure – in residential schools. This practice was another attempt at assimilation. Stories of the ‘black car’ coming into communities to gather children would strike terror among families, and children were told to run into the bush if they saw a black car. The black car was the standard government vehicle that the social workers would use as they went about their work, often accompanied by the RCMP. The scooping up of children became more pronounced in the 60s, and that is why the term the 60s Scoop has become more well known. However, the practice continues to this day. In present day Saskatchewan, 83% of children in foster care are Indigenous (Stats Can, 2016)
The sense of responsibility for younger generations is a strong one among many Indigenous peoples, especially as one ages and with the aging comes the reflection and assessing of one’s life. With each generation the teachings need to be taught, the information and knowledge shared so that the cultural identity of the Metis people remains strong and vibrant. One of the teachings that comes from the Iroquois Confederacy is that of the ‘Seventh Generation’; that decisions you make today should be made with the intent of sustainability of the next 7 generations. The responsibility of each of us, when taken in the context of the next 7 generations, is indeed great.
Gifted to us by our land
The land, our mother, provides for all our needs. Humans would not be on this earth if it wasn’t for the water, the plants, the animals, the air – everything we need to live is provided to us by the land. The way of speaking shows the reverence that Indigenous peoples feel towards the land.
We are on our land
The connection to the land is strong and when taken in context with the beliefs of the land being our mother, then the treaties and scrip systems brought to Indigenous peoples by the Canadian government make less sense. Why would Indigenous peoples sell their ‘mother’, sell the land that provides for all their needs, sell something that no one could ever own? They only ever agreed to share the land with the newcomers. The land continues to be a strong link to the values and beliefs that make Indigenous peoples who they are.
A Truth About Our History...
Since its inception in 1907, Indigenous people have been a part of the University of Saskatchewan as leaders, teachers, and students. In this sense, the U of S has been an institution that provides “facilities for higher education in all its branches and enabling all persons without regard to race, creed or religion" . Over its history it has been a contributor, and often a leader, in supporting Indigenous initiatives, albeit in context to the times.
- 1909 - James McKay, a Métis lawyer, a member of the first Board of Governors and then the Chancellor of Emmanuel College
- 1910-12 - Edward Ahenakew, the first First Nation student from Sandy Lake , became a strong political and spiritual leader in our province
- 1915 - Annie Maude (Nan) McKay, the first Métis person and woman to graduate from the University, and then she worked in the University Library for over 40 years.
- 1960 – established the Institute for Northern Studies, which included Northern Saskatchewan
- 1961, established the Indian and Northern Education Program, followed by the Indian and Northern Curriculum Resources Centre and Society for Indian and Northern Education in 1964.
- 1975, established the Native Law Centre
- 1980, established the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program
- 1985, established the Native Access Program to Nursing
- 1990, first Welcome Week Powwow on campus
- 1991, established the Aboriginal Students’ Centre to support the academic and personal success of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students at the University
Despite these many firsts at the University of Saskatchewan, much more could have been done. Throughout the history of Canada’s postsecondary institutions the number of Indigenous students, staff and faculty were too few, their roles and responsibilities too limited, the quality of their experiences too constrained, the support for their human rights was too tokenistic, and the respect and valuing offered to their culture, knowledge and perspectives too insufficient. The systemic assimilative issues of society and the strict Western approach to teaching and learning contributed to an unwelcoming and unsupportive environment for Indigenous students and their families.
Is this a hard truth? Yes. Is it insurmountable? No.
"It used to be called Snake Lake, (Pinehouse) that was the original name. Kinīpiko Sakahikan, we have a Kinīpiko Point too, that’s where her (Rosa) Dad has a cabin too. And Snake Rapids is over here, going toward the Key Lake Road. That feeds our lake, the Churchill River system but Snake River is the one that feeds Pinehouse. But when they had commercial fishing here, they didn’t like the name Snake Lake so they changed it to Pinehouse Lake." (Frank Natomagan)
The depopulating epidemics reported in history books were smallpox, typhus, cholera, influenza and yellow fever. It is difficult to estimate the impact of these epidemics as the spread of disease was in advance of anyone who would have recorded the populations. There are some estimates that the populations of Indigenous peoples in the Americas was decreased by up to 73%. (Sask Encyclopedia). Smallpox was especially severe, between 20-60% of adults and up to 80% of children dying from the disease.
Cooperative Commonwealth Federation
The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation swept into power in Saskatchewan in 1944 with Tommy Douglas as Premier and the CCF remained until 1964.
"And that’s government bringing in, trying to have control on people, they bring them into a settlement because they were all scattered in their traplines. So they promised them homes. I remember those first homes, out of plywood, our grandfathers had them, our grandfather Tom and his brothers Ralph and Joe. And they were probably, back in the day a 16 by 20 house was a mansion you know. Now you still see a little trapline home, 12 by 8 or so, just a place to sleep, a little stove. And even then a 16 by 20 housed a family of 10, so you roll up your blankets in the day and pull out the makeshift tables to eat..." -Frank Natomagan
Elder Samuel Misponas stated...
"Pinehouse Lake, Snake Lake was what it was called first, but they didn’t like it."
Judiciary and Fiduciary
Judiciary is the system of courts that applies or upholds the law on behalf of the state. Overall both Metis and First Nations fall under the general law of the land. It is in relation to hunting and fishing rights that there is a difference. Under the treaties First Nations can continue to practice their traditional lifestyle and are protected under Constitutional Law. The Metis fall under the provincial judicial system. Overall the RCMP police both jurisdictions and uphold the same laws, but certain provincial bylaws are not applicable on reserve land. With the creation of the Indian Act in 1876, First Nations people who are registered as Status Indians are under the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government. Whereas, the Metis fall under the provincial government, and until fairly recently they did not receive any services that were different from the general population. However, on April 14, 2016 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Metis and non-Status Indians fall under the legal definition of Indian in the Canadian Constitution. The federal and provincial governments have not worked out exactly what this means in terms of jurisdictional responsibilities.
"...And then after that we tried to go to school, but like I said we didn’t pay much attention to it, school wasn’t important to us, to have education, reading, writing cuz we lived from the land, that’s what we believed in. My parents didn’t have an education. And my siblings and I, we didn’t care for it, you know. We started working, we could look after ourselves without an education. We were able to get by." -Rosa Tinker
"So yeah, I went to school. Just before 6 is the starting age for grade 1, and our school only started from grade 1 to grade 8. There was no high school. So that’s why, for myself, like she said, what’s the point of educating yourself, there’s nothing here, you can’t – even if you’re educated, the outfitters, the fishermen, or the hunters or trappers they don’t want any part of you, you’ve got white man education." Frank Natomagan
There was a residential school in La Ronge that operated from 1922 to 1947 by the Anglican Church, when it was destroyed by fire. The school was not rebuilt and children in the area were sent to Prince Albert to attend the Prince Albert Indian Residential School (PAISR). (https://www.anglican.ca/tr/histories/all-saints-school-sk/). PAISR continued to operate until 1996. (https://www.anglican.ca/tr/histories/prince-albert/). Another residential school that took in children from Pinehouse was Beauval Indian Residential School; this school was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1906 until 1969 when the federal government took over operations. The School continued to operate until it was demolished by former students in 1995. (http://www2.uregina.ca/education/saskindianresidentialschools/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/shatteringthesilenceBeauval.pdf)
1970's Fishing Plant Shutdown
"The only thing that kept us going was our fishing, hunting and trapping and that fish plant. We were thriving on that, and then they pulled that out of our, they shut it down, I don’t know why, they were still making, they was still good fishing. I’m guessing that was in the late 60s that they shut’er down, if not the early 70s." -Frank Natomagan
The Dry Road Back
"I wanted to, like it was the drinking capital of northern Saskatchewan at one point, from the early 70s to 79 when they made the documentary Dry Road Back depicting our community to be the drinking capital of northern Saskatchewan. And some of us ladies got together and thought ‘hey, we’ve got to do some changes in this community.’ So what we did was we wrote letters to the government, and we said we need a child care centre, we need a kindergarten class, we need this, we need that. We were instrumental in getting a daycare centre, a childcare centre and some things that will just take care of our younger generation so they don’t get lost in that world of alcohol." -Ida Ratt
"But how we, the people in Pinehouse, have survived, is from working together. That is what has helped us overcome. Even if someone gets us mad, we still talk to them politely. We work together." -Rosa Tinker
"And it’s still a very close knit community. Everybody knows everybody. When I lived in the city that was unheard of – I couldn’t go next door and say can I borrow a cup of sugar, that was unheard of. But here everybody knows everybody, everybody’s connected." -Ida Ratt
"I never lost my Cree language. That’s one good thing, my Dad always made sure ‘nehiyawe’ speak Cree often, not English. In the residential school we’d speak English and then when we’d come home we’d speak Cree, straight Cree, that would be our first language, because my parents were really, they were older and they knew very little English. So we’d have a conversation with my parents in Cree and we’d suddenly have to speak English when we got to residential school, you’d have to really learn and try to master that language. So in my mind I got the best of both, you know, I got really good English skills and then I was able to keep the Cree language." -Caroline Ratt-Misponas
Commitment to their social, cultural, and economic survival
"I would like to see our future, our future generations working like us, working to build the community, working to build family ties, working to build infrastructure. Working, maybe to even have a road into the community where we’re not eating dust. But it’s coming, these are the blueprints that we want to make for them, this is what we’d like to see as elders, when they start taking care of us that’s what we want to see. We want you to build from what we teach you." -Ida Ratt
Kīyokīwin is a Cree word for visiting, but it is more than just visiting. Kīyokīwin is about creating, building and sustaining relationships within families, communities and societies; it is also about knowledge sharing, and maintaining stories that are important for the continuation of the culture and traditions.
Once the relationship to land has been made, it becomes a strong compulsion and produces an inherent sense of place; calling one back time and again, regardless of where one goes. However, for many people, that sense of and relationship to place has been lost, especially those that have spent the majority of their lives in urban settings as well as those that have been forcefully removed and relocated. Finding connection to the land – kikawinow aski (Mother Earth) – is a critical first step for Indigenous peoples’ journey towards reclaiming what was lost due to colonization.
Land has always been at the crux of Indigenous/Settler relations, and will continue to be a place of tension. The dichotomy between ownership of land to settlers versus belonging to and with the land to Indigenous peoples is one of the fundamental differences and causes of conflict and misunderstanding. These stories of place and culture show the impact of colonization, of governmental policies, and settler advancement have had on First Nations and Metis communities in Saskatchewan. Truth and Reconciliation cannot advance until the truth is heard, and believed.