This story is taken from “A Woods Cree Grammar and Workbook” by Solomon Ratt, and published here with his permission. (Thanks, Solomon!)
I love this story because it has elements of “urban myth” — in a Cree sort of way. I’m trying to remember where I read a *real* story like this — maybe in the stories of Ellen Smallboy (gathered in the 1930s). In that story, the mother or grandmother canoed up behind a swimming deer, and killed it with a sharpened pole (the kind used to stake a fish net, which she would have had in the canoe anyway) by shoving the stake up its anus and rupturing its inner organs. I don’t know if they named the location after her, the hungry family appreciated the venison.
In other words, the core of the story is probably true (a granny survived alone and they named a bay after her), but the details are far too big to be real.
Another real story I’ve read (in Preston’s Cree Narrative, I think), talks about how hard it was for two men to haul a dead bear out of the lake after killing it in the water. A moose is much larger than that. Granny would have had to be Paul Bunyan to pull out a moose all by herself.
The axe thing also sounds suspiciously like 21st century thinking to me, compared to the stake that was witnessed to do the job. Those old-time kohkoms didn’t mess around! But Solomon says he was a little kid in the canoe (trying to get away) when relatives of his got a moose exactly this way. That’s pretty cool.
Thanks again, Solomon, for letting me share your story!
kayâs îsa, mistahi mâna kî-papâmôtêhowak ithiniwak, î-nânitonawâcik pisiskiwa ta-pimâtihisocik. piyakwâw îsa î-takwâkinithik ôko ithiniwak âmaciwîspimowinihk ohci kî-sipwîyôtîhowak ikota ohci. kî-at-kapîsiwak nikiko-sâkahikanihk, ikota piyak î-misâthik wâsâw kâ-kî-mânokîcik. piyak tipiskâw ikota î-ayâcik. kâ-kîkisîpâyâthik itasowîwak ohcitaw poko ikota ta-nakatâcik piyak nôtokwîsiwa osâm kîkâc î-kawikihkâthit, î-papîcîthit kâ-mîkwâ-pimôtîhocik.
A long time ago, the people used to travel around a lot, looking for animals that would sustain them. One fall, these people from Stanley Mission set off on their journey. They made camp along at Otter Lake where there was one huge bay is where they set up their tents. They were there for one night. In the morning they decided that they would have to leave one old woman because she was keeling over with age and was slow along their journey.
ikota nakatamawîwak cîmânis ikwa kahkithaw otâpacihcikana. namôtha nânitaw ohci-itîthihtam awa nôtokwîsiw ohcitaw mâna ikosi î-kî-itôtahkwâw kayâs ithiniwak. piyakwâw îsa î-otâkosinithik kâ-wâpamât môswa awa nôtokwîsiw, î-âsowahamithit sâkahikan. hay! kîsiskaw pôsipathihow ôcisisihk, î-tahkonahk pîminahkwân ikwa cîkahikanis, î-nawaswâtât anihi môswa. hay! kaskihtâw ta-tâpakwâtât ikwa ikota ohci ati-cîkahwîw ostikwânithihk. kwayask nîpîkwahisow
It was there they left her with a canoe and all her utensils and tools. She thought nothing of this because this was common practice in the old days for the people. One evening the old woman sees a moose swimming on the lake. Hay! She quickly gets into her canoe taking with her a rope and a small axe, chasing the moose. Hay! She was able to snare the moose and she hit the moose on the head with the small axe. She had killed game for herself!
kâ-sîkwanithik îsa owahkômâkana kâwi-takôtîhothiwa, ikota miskâkow kiyâpic î-mamîcithit kâskîwak, kapî-pipon îsa î-mâmowât anihi môswa kâ-kî-nipahât. ikota ohci “kohkominânihk” pî-icikâtîw iyako wâsâw ita kâ-kî-piyako-piponisit awa nôtokwîsiw.
Come spring when her relatives came travelling back that way they found her still eating dried meat from the moose she had killed. From that moment onward that bay became known as “Grandmother’s Bay” where the old woman had spent the winter on her own.