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The Cree Culture Experience

Posted: April 26th, 2013

By Cassidy Plaud

 

Top (from left to right): Paul K. Barten, Lawrance Bosum, Hans Carlson, David Bosum, Emily Bosum, Anna Bosum, Naomi Heindel, Kathrine Usik, Adam Finkle. Bottom (from left to right): Nick Chmura, Georges Fischer, Lena Fletcher, Tristan O’Donnell, Cassidy Plaud, Drew Gath.

Top (from left to right): Paul K. Barten, Lawrence Capissisit, Hans Carlson, David Bosum, Emily Bosum, Anna Bosum, Naomi Heindel, Katherine Usik, Adam Finkle. Bottom (from left to right): Nick Chmura, Georges Fischer, Lena Fletcher, Tristan O’Donnell, Cassidy Plaud, Drew Gath.

 

This was the class that went on the 2013 snowshoeing trip to Ouje-Bougoumou in northern Quebec. It was a ten-day cultural emersion trip. We stayed three nights in the cultural village and five days in a traditional bush camp.  We learned about the boreal forest by living in it. Our wonderful hosts David and Anna Bosum, and their cousin Lawrence taught us about the boreal forest and Cree life and traditions. Living in the bush camp allowed us to experience their family dynamics first hand. We gained hands-on experience doing diverse things ranging from traditional wood-working and sewing skills to setting a net under two feet of lake ice.  Even when people were learning separate things, as a group we prepared, ate, and cleaned up three meals a day. We ate traditional food, including: moose, caribou, beaver, snowshoe hare, Canada goose, several varieties of fish we caught in the lake, and bannock (a hearty bread made on a wood stove).  This class is an amazingly unique and magnificent experience.

 

This was the first sight walking into camp. Behind the handmade snowshoes is the cook tent where we ate three times a day. The animal skins from left to right are lynx, fox and  mink.

This was the first sight walking into David and Anna Bosum’s winter camp. Behind the handmade snowshoes and toboggan is the cook tent where we ate three times a day. The animal skins, from left to right, are lynx, fox and marten. The Cree people have sustained themselves by hunting, fishing, and trapping for millennia.

Students fill the water buckets with lake water. This was the only water in camp and was perfectly safe for cooking, drinking, and everything else.

Students fill the water buckets with lake water for cooking, drinking, and washing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students use a Y shapes stick to push a long floating stick to the next hole in the ice. The Stick has rope attacted to it which will then be attached to a gillnet and pulled out of the water, setting the net.

Students use a forked stick to push a long spruce pole to the next hole under the ice. The spruce pole has rope attached to it which is then be attached to a net. The net is pulled under the ice and retrieved later to remove the fish.

 

 

David Bosum hauls the net from under the ice (two northern pike, three red suckers and two whitefish).

Learning about the environmental, social, and economic effects of the Hydro-Quebec system is an integral part of this course. The powerlines shown here are part of tranmission network which supplies about one third of New England’s electrical demand.

 

These beautiful and functional winter moccasins were hand sewn and embroidered by Anna Bosum.  They are traditional footwear during cold, dry weather.  They are very light and very warm.  Unlike leather, rubber, or synthetic winter boots, they allow perspiration to escape.

These beautiful and functional winter moccasins were hand sewn and embroidered by Anna Bosum. They are traditional footwear during cold, dry weather. They are very light and very warm. Unlike leather, rubber, or synthetic winter boots, they allow perspiration to escape.

 

Students use tradtional tools to scrape moose pelt as the second step to make moose hide. It will not  be workable leather until next year.

Students use traditional tools to scrape a moose pelt. This is the second of twenty distinct steps needed to produce a smoke-tanned moose hide. It will not be workable leather (for mocassins, mittens, snowshoe lacing, and other uses) until next year.

 

 

 

 

Animal skulls tied up off the ground so other animals cannot get to them.  It is a sign of respect – honoring the gift of food to the Cree people and releasing the animal’s spirit back to the forest.

Animal skulls tied up off the ground so other animals cannot get to them. It is a sign of respect – honoring the gift of food to the Cree people and releasing the animal’s spirit back to the forest.

 

 

 

Anna teaches the women the fine art of Cree embroidery.

Anna teaches the women the fine art of Cree embroidery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The men are carving wooden snow shovels – like the one we used while setting the fish net.

The men are carving wooden snow shovels – like the one we used while setting the fish net.

 

 

 

 

 

French, Cree syllabics, Cree, and English on traffic and street signs in the village.

French, Cree syllabics, Cree, and English on traffic and street signs in the village.