Ellen Smallboy

Ellen Smallboy: Glimpses of a Cree Woman's Life

REGINA FLANNERY
Historical Context by JOHN S. LONG
Suggestions for Further Reading by LAURA PEERS
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 128
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zx78
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  • Book Info
    Ellen Smallboy
    Book Description:

    Flannery recounts Smallboy's childhood at Lake Kesagami, her father's early death and the effect of this tragedy, her marriage to Simon Smallboy and move to French River, and her old age at Moose Factory. Through Smallboy's anecdotes and episodes in her life, long-vanished values and norms of Cree society are illustrated and recorded.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6572-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Laura Peers and John S. Long

    Every once in a long while, those of us who are interested in history come across an object, a document, a photograph, or a book that seems, magically, to bridge the gap between ourselves and a time long ago, to allow us to hear a voice, to see a face, and to know — just a little — a person from past times. This is such a book. In the summers of 1933,1935, and 1937, a young scholar named Regina Flannery interviewed Cree women elders at Moose Factory. One of the women with whom she talked at length was Ellen Smallboy, then...

  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xviii-2)
  7. MEETING ELLEN
    (pp. 3-11)

    The morning after my arrival at Moose Factory, Ruby took me to visit Ellen Smallboy, then a woman of eighty years of age. Her Cree name was Beciguc and her nickname was Lulukecin, “maybe because I was fat,” she said.¹ She could hobble about with a cane, but was no longer able to travel to winter camp, and was now living year-round in one of the log cabins scattered near the HBC complex with Simon,² her husband of fifty-eight years, and his widowed sister, Christiana, both of whom were still able-bodied. John M. Cooper had interviewed Simon at some length...

  8. ELLEN’S EARLY DAYS AT KESAGAMI
    (pp. 12-25)

    The year her father died (1868), when Ellen was in her mid-teens, marked a turning point in her life. Her father had become ill after the several families who gathered at Lake Kesagami for the fall fishing had all dispersed to winter quarters. Even her older sister Charlotte and Charlotte’s husband Patoosh (who would normally have been with them) had joined another hunting group for the winter. Ellen and her other two sisters and their parents were left alone.

    Her father decided that they must get to a lake within his hunting territory where they could spend the winter. He...

  9. MARRIED LIFE ON FRENCH CREEK
    (pp. 26-46)

    Ellen married in 1875, when she was twenty-two years old, about seven years after her father died. One afternoon she started telling me about her marriage and went on to discuss those of her sisters and her sister-in-law.

    When I was young I had the chance to marry two or three men, but I picked the one [Simon] who was a good hunter. Lots of girls were after him, like my sister Harriet, but he wouldn’t have them. Harriet didn’t want me to marry him when he asked me, but I said: “You are not going to stop me no...

  10. OLD AGE AT MOOSE FACTORY
    (pp. 47-52)

    In their old age, Simon and Ellen lived year-round in a log cabin not far from the Hudson’s Bay Company complex on Moose Factory Island. A few other elderly or incapacitated people also remained year-round, but most of the band members and other Cree visitors who had come in the summer took off for their winter quarters in early fall.

    In these later years, Simon’s sister, Christiana, lived with Simon and Ellen. She was a widow in her seventies, who had come from Kesagami to Moose Factory to tend to a daughter who was ill and had then stayed on....

  11. PERSPECTIVES ON ELLEN’S LIFE
    (pp. 53-55)

    In most respects Ellen’s life exemplifies the pattern expected of women in the nineteenth century in the James Bay area.²⁷ Thanks to her mother’s strict training and her own willingness to learn, she was by her late teens fully competent to carry out all the tasks expected of women. Although the loss of her father early in her life caused hardship and great sorrow, his death seems to have fostered her independent spirit as she achieved increasing competence in hunting, trapping for furs, and other activities usually undertaken by men. This competence was an advantage in subarctic bush life, where...

  12. REVISITING MOOSE FACTORY, 1985
    (pp. 56-64)

    In 1985, I, along with three colleagues, had the opportunity to return to Moose Factory for a short visit. I was prepared for many changes since I was last there in 1938. I knew that the posts around the Bay were now small towns with settled populations, that concomitant commercial and governmental developments had occurred, and that life in the bush as the Cree had known it in the past had disappeared. Yet some aspects of the contemporary way of life caught me by surprise.

    I had known that there are still no roads to Moosonee — it can be reached...

  13. HISTORICAL CONTEXT
    (pp. 65-76)
    JOHN S. LONG

    By 1933, when Regina Flannery met Ellen Smallboy, the Cree of James Bay had already experienced two and a half centuries of contacts with Euro-Canadian outsiders. During this time, the traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering activities, social and political systems, and religion of the Cree had been greatly affected, first by the fur trade and later by missionary and government interventions.

    As Ellen’s story suggests, the fur trade remained an important aspect of life in the James Bay region until well into the twentieth century. The Cree’s first involvement in this trade was mediated through their aboriginal neighbours, south and...

  14. LITERATURE ON THE CREE OF JAMES BAY: SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
    (pp. 77-80)
    LAURA PEERS

    Ellen Smallboy’s story is a Cree story. Much has been written about the Cree of Moose Factory and the James Bay region during the twentieth century. Anthropological studies of these people began with Alanson Skinner in the first two decades of the century, followed by John M. Cooper and Regina Flannery in the 1920s and 1930s, and John J. Honigmann in the 1940s and 1950s. Since the work of Richard J. Preston and his students, beginning in the 1960s, the area has attracted the interest of several dozen scholars and there has been a significant increase in research on all...

  15. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 81-82)
    Lorraine Le Camp

    It was with great pleasure that I received an invitation to offer some thoughts on this latest work by Regina Flannery. Although I am a descendant of Cree women from James Bay, I was raised within the dominant white society. I — even more than my mother before me — do not have an insider’s knowledge of Native life and I am not an authority on Native ways. I speak from my position as a scholar and as a woman who has maternal connections to the Cree women of James Bay.

    During the years that Regina Flannery was interviewing Ellen Smallboy and...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 83-90)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 91-98)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 99-104)