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ACCI flows from the knowledge that Cree culture must be captured, maintained, shared, celebrated, and practiced. Cree Elders have spoken of the need for a central place for the protection of the way, and have developed a vision for Aanischaaukamikw over several decades.

Feb 24, 2017

Preparing for Siikun in Eeyou Istchee


Preparing for Siikun in Eeyou Istchee

by Annie Bosum, with Elder Eva Bosum

 Spring in the bush offers many activities including the move to a new camp. I learned this from my uncle and aunt, George and Eva Bosum (Photo 1), who always demonstrated a love of the land as our ancestors did before them.  Like all of their generation (born in the late 1920s), the land is their soul–they live and breathe what the land provides, relying on the animals and forest for clothing, warmth and nutrition.  
(Photo 1 – George and Eva Bosum making snowshoes. Anna Bosum Photograph Collection.)

All year round, they were on the land, hunting and practicing traditional activities, demonstrating typical characteristics of what we call ‘Dab-Eenouch’, people who are competent in their knowledge of how to live off the land. My late uncle George knew his land like the back of his hand and knew the traditional Cree names of each lake and river.  When the mining companies began moving into the Chibougamau area in the 1950s, George and Eva were the last people to abandon their old shack at Dore Lake.  They did not relocate into the town of Chibougamau like the other Cree people, and searched instead for a suitable camp at Chibougamau Lake.  With the permission of the tallyman, the late Philip Shecapio Sr., they built a cabin to stay in for the summer months, returning to their hunting territory, North of Lake Opataca in late August or early September each year. 

In the summer months they set up fish nets and lived on fish around Chibougamau Lake.  In Autumn (Takwaachin), Winter (Pipun), and Spring (Siikun) they traveled to their hunting territory to hunt small game, bear and moose.  Together, with perfect skill and accurate knowledge, they worked continuously in quiet strength, preparing toboggans, snowshoes, moccasins and mittens, using only materials from the land. They traveled effortlessly as a team on foot, on snowshoes and with the canoe, delightfully in tune with nature and oneness with the woods.

One early Autumn, we flew by plane to our hunting territory. We temporarily camped in a small canvas tent, using spruce poles to hold it up, and with pine boughs as flooring.  I remember my uncle and aunt working tirelessly from dawn to late evening to build the aschiiukamikw:  a moss dwelling which would become our Fall/Winter dwelling, or sometimes a takwaachihtaaukamikw, which was made out of logs and moss.  This type of dwelling was built using black spruce trees stripped of their bark to make logs, and moss from the earth.  I remember it being small, but quite comfortable and warm.  A hole was first dug about 3-4 feet deep, underneath the soil was soft and easy to shovel.  The area where we lived was both marshy and dry, with an abundance of moss, black spruce, jack pine and white birch. 

When the time would come to move out of our takwaachihtaaukamikw, Uncle George would go ahead to locate the perfect spot for our siikunihtaaukamikw, a place closer to abundant water to hunt the migrating geese and ducks.  The kichiihchaaukimkw is a square lodge made with two or three split logs, cut from spruce trees, on each of the four sides, with canvas walls and a tarp secured with nails (Photo 2).

(Photo 2 – George, Eva and Harry Bosum at spring camp. Anna Bosum Photograph Collection.)
Next my Uncle would get his taatiyaakanaaskw toboggan to move the canoes to the siikunishiwin.  This type of toboggan is used to carry a 9 or 8 foot canvas canoe.  He waited until the snow and ice turned hard from Spring rains and cold nights. This type of snow is called uteyaau.  The dogs pulled the toboggan with the canoe, with my Uncle walking in front and my Aunt walking behind, carrying a wood pole to push the toboggan when needed (Photo 3).

(Photo 3 – Charlie and Louise Jimiken, 1970-1971, showing an example of a taatiyaakanaaskw and a taashipitaakin in the background. Photographer: Adrian Tanner.)
In the early morning, when the ice was hard, you could walk without snowshoes, wearing only kâ chinwâch maschisin (Photo 4).  My Aunt and Uncle left very early so they could return before the sun made the ice too slushy for travel.  At the new camp, the canoe was hung on a teshipitaakan. The taatiyaakanaaskw was left at the new camp, so the return journey used only a small sled, carrying snowshoes and other necessities. A few more trips with the dog sled moved everything needed to our new siikunishiwin.

(Photo 4 – ACCI 2012.09.115ab. From the Cree Action Collection.)
 

 

 

 

 


ᐊᔅᒌᐅᑲᒥᒄ
aschiiukamikw
a moss dwelling
ᑕᐧᑳᒋᐦᑖᐅᑲᒥᒄ
takwaachihtaaukamikw
Fall/winter dwelling made of moss / logs
ᑲᒌᐦᒉᐅᑲᒥᒄ
Kachiihcheukamikw
Square lodge with split logs
ᑖᑎᔮᑲᓈᔅᒄ
taatiyaakanaaskw
Wide, long toboggan for transporting a canoe
ᐅᑌᔮᐤ
uteyaau
The surface of the snow freezes hard after it rains in winter
ᑌᔑᐱᑖᑲᓐ
teshipitaakan
A raised platform  cache with four legs cut from trees and two logs placed parallel to each other
ᑳ ᒋᐧᓈᒡ ᒪᔅᒋᓯᓐ
kâ chinwâch maschisin
Tall moccasins with warm duffle linings
ᓰᑯᓐ
Siikun
Spring
ᓰᑯᓂᔑᐧᐃᓐ
siikunishiwin
Place to spend Spring
ᐊᔅᒌᐅᑲᒥᒄ
takwaachin
Autumn
ᐱᐳᓐ
pipun
Winter
ᓰᑯᓂᐦᑖᐅᑲᒥᒄ
siikunihtaaukamikw
Spring Dwelling

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