Ojiijitaa Dewegan – Double Sided Hunters Drum.
When there was difficulty finding animals, the drum would be used to call on Spirit of the spirit of the animals. While the hunter was sleeping, the spirit of the animals would come to show the hunter where the animals are. Dewegan was also used in feasting to celebrate and thank the spirit of Wensiiyag. To give celebration to the spirit of the animal for feeding the people.
Our Wesiingyag are looked upon as animate beings. They are beings with soul and spirit.
When Kzhemnidoo created wesiinyag, Creator called in all of the animals and told them of a being that would soon walk the earth and they would be very poor. They were being asked to look after the people with their meat and skins and bones. The animals agreed.
Nishnaabe were then created and placed upon the earth. They had nothing. We are born with nothing. Wesiinyag continue to this day to give their lives so that we could live. They’ve always looked after us. The land was our grocery store. We would set 2 or 3 snares in the evening. In the morning we would check the snares before school and bring them home. Partridge was everywhere where the yellow birch trees grew. We would harvest 5 or 6 partridge for supper. Partridge had a sac in their neck full of seeds. He would eat those seeds. Peters mom would blow up these sacs for the kids to play with, and would make things with the feathers in the evening. They didn’t waste anything.
A new nation later came. The 7 prophecies prophesized that another being would come to our part of the world. Miishiingwe. Hairy face. They came on boats. Great changes would take place. They came by the thousands. They took from the land also. The animals fed everybody. The beavers almost became extinct because of the new beings that came here.
The prophecies of miishiingwe said that they would take as much as possible from the land. Prophecies are coming true. Prophecies also said water would become so poisoned that the fish would float on the water.
Our traditional hunting and harvesting was that we took something only when we needed it. Now things have changed in our society. Animals were still the main food. A lot of people would come from Ktigaaning to trade for moose meat and maple syrup. Martha Clemens, for one.
This wasn’t referred to as “harvesting”, just naturally living off the land. Peter and his family would come to Ktigaaning to visit an old man who made snow shoes. They would trade maple syrup for snow shoes. People were still collecting water from the lake at that time. The nets started to be used from Beaucage Point. Ling was the delicacy fish at that time, for them. They also cooked the fish eggs and liver. There were no bones in that fish. They cleaned the ling like waasii. The ling were large fish, over 10 pounds. The liver was large. Peters mother baked the liver. We don’t see ling that large anymore.
They didn’t get many pickerel. They got a lot of pike and ling and also cooked sucker head soup. Nmebin – sucker. And they cooked Nme – sturgeon. Nmebin had a lot to do with our survival. It was always available. Now today its looked at as an unwanted fish. Nmebin really provided for us during hard times.
Times were not always plentiful, but food was available. The animals gave their lives for our survival. Survival was always a struggle. We didn’t have barsigan (gun). People had to be good hunters to get big animals. They would hunt at night. They would paddle most of the night near the animal, and hunted with spears on birch bark canoes. You could hear the animal in the water. The birchbark canoe had to be very quiet. You had to paddle and listen. You could hear the bubbles. The animal would be under water eating plants. We would come alongside the moose. The moose wouldn’t even know. Hunters were very skilled then. Deer was hunted in the water also. Minzhiygemin. We had to scare the animal to a certain place and would herd the animals to that place where the hunters are.
The runs at Beaucage have been there for a long time. Logging changed the moose trails. Moose trails were clean like a path. Like it was made by a human being.
Zabien. Lawrence Commanda’s father would set snares for moose.
The people didn’t see themselves as poor because they lived comfortable lives. A lot of chores kept the people busy.
Everything around them was mshkiki (strength from the earth – medicine). Our language has no name for “weeds” (something that is no good). Everything in the bush is medicine.
When they were sick they had to go into the busy and get their own medicine, no matter how sick they were.
Peter Beaucage (Peter’s grandfather) was able to doctor people. His medicine was nbii. They were brought into the bush for a fast for 4-6 days until they were visited by their spirit helper. He used spring water.
When you would treat someone who is sick, they would stay with you.
Ogitchitaa dewegan – the hunters drum is from the midewin lodge was used sometimes.
However the animal presents itself to you. I don’t call using a firearm traditional hunting. Hunting has changed.
Today bows are being used and it goes through the animal and it will still run. People are funding animals dead with a bow in them. Animals can live a whole day if you miss their heart and lungs. A lot of animals are being shot with crossbows. Those bows are strong. A bullet will cause a lot of damage but it will kill and animal.
In the 1970’s and 80’s, the deer were overhunted here. There were no deer for 10 years. People were hunting in the spring time when the animals were carrying their young. And people were going into deer yards. There were no deer at Nipissing after that. If we are not careful, this will happen again. The animals will leave when they have had enough. Maajaangat.
We would skin a skunk and drip the oil into a pan. This oil is medicine also.
If we abuse the medicines, they will leave also.
When Peter was young, they would slide down Beaucage in a big bobsled. It would take about 4 or 5 people to pull the sleighs back up. Maa’iingan would pass through our sliding trails and bears, etc.