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Telling Our Stories

Telling Our Stories: Omushkego Legends and Histories from Hudson Bay

Louis Bird
Jennifer S.H. Brown
Paul W. DePasquale
Mark F. Ruml
Roland Bohr
Anne Lindsay
Donna G. Sutherland
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 269
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttmmd
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  • Book Info
    Telling Our Stories
    Book Description:

    Louis Bird, a distinguished Aboriginal storyteller and historian, presents some of the most vivid legends and historical stories from his collection, casting new light on his people's history, culture, and values.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0219-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-10)
  3. list of maps and illustrations
    (pp. 11-12)
  4. preface & acknowledgements
    (pp. 13-20)
  5. glossary of cree terms
    (pp. 21-32)
  6. 1 An Omushkego Storyteller and His Book
    (pp. 33-58)

    Hello, good day. This is Louis Bird, today is November 21, 2003, and this is Peawanuck, Ontario, where I live. This is my introduction to a book of stories that I have been working on for a long time.¹ A team of professors and some students at the University of Winnipeg helped me with the chapters. We sometimes call it “Louis Bird’s book,” but the stories are old and I did not make them up. I learned them mostly from my grandmother, Maggie Bird (Pennishish), her brother, David Sutherland, and my parents, Michel and Scholastique Bird, and then from many...

  7. 2 “Now, the Question of Creation”: Stories About Beginnings and the World Before We Came
    (pp. 59-86)

    Many Indigenous peoples continue to tell creation stories as a way to explain the greatest mysteries of life: how were the celestial and other heavenly objects, the waters, and lands created, and by what god or gods and powers? What are the origins of the natural world, plants, animals, and creatures of the land and sea? Who were the first humans on earth, and what kind of world did they emerge into and inhabit? Creation stories, observes Virginia Hamilton, “relate events that seem outside of time and even beyond time itself. Creation myths take place before the ‘once upon a...

  8. 3 Mi-te-wi-win: Stories of Shamanism and Survival
    (pp. 87-106)

    From the Omushkego perspective, mi-te-wi-win has existed for a very long time, even before the creation of human beings. The old stories in Louis Bird’s collection of oral history are full of characters with mi-tew power, such as the Giant Skunk (Mi-she-shek-kak), We-mis-shoosh, Chaka-pesh, E-hep, Wi-sa-kay-chak, and I-yas. They provide vivid examples of the proper use or misuse of this power and the concomitant results. Louis’s collection reveals that stories of individuals with mi-tew power have persisted over time. Recent narratives about such personages (mi-te- wak) can be distinguished from older stories by their incorporation of European technology and characters,...

  9. 4 Mi-tew Power: Stories of Shamanic Showdowns
    (pp. 107-132)

    This chapter presents two stories about the use of mi-tew power. The We-mis-shoosh story is an old legend. The story of the orphan boy and the Kische Mi-tew (Great Shaman) is more recent, as revealed by the incorporation of European technology. Both stories tell of the defeat of a powerful senior shaman by a young mi-tew: in the first case a son-in-law, and in the second an orphan boy. In both cases, the older man is a Kische Mi-tew, a very powerful and “feared shaman” (koo-chi-kan).¹

    Hello, tan-shi. I am going to punch right into the legend, it’s a story...

  10. 5 Omens, Mysteries, and First Encounters
    (pp. 133-162)

    Some of the most powerful and intriguing themes of the old Omushkego stories concern glimpses of and interactions with outsiders, mystical, legendary, and historical. Some visitors were Europeans; others were not. During the making of this book, Louis Bird told a story about some strangers who came north to James Bay before the first Europeans settled there. They captured a young man and carried him off to their land far to the south; there he made a miraculous escape just before he was to be sacrificed and returned to tell the tale. “The Omushkego Captive and the Na-to-way-wak” comes first...

  11. 6 “The Wailing Clouds” (Pa-so-way-yan-nask chi-pe-ta-so-win)
    (pp. 163-188)

    The story of “The Wailing Clouds” is a vibrant part of the Omushkego oral tradition. It teaches the Omushkego worldview and the very tangible consequences of failing to listen to an elder as well as of “sinning against nature.” It describes and explains the devastation created by diseases brought to the lowlands through trade with Europeans as well as what happened when the people failed to respect their value system. It also describes the cultural strategies the Omushkegowak used to combat a previously unknown disease. “The Wailing Clouds” locates traditional practices like hunting and competitive games within a cultural fabric...

  12. 7 Arrows and Thunder Sticks: Technologies Old and New
    (pp. 189-208)

    Big-game hunting has been a major means of food procurement for the Omushkegowak of the Hudson and James Bay Lowlands since earliest times. Through practical experience and observation, they acquired a vast body of knowledge about their environment and the interaction and interdependence of its plants, animals, topography, climate, and weather patterns. Based on this knowledge, they fine-tuned their equipment to meet their needs in an environment that, with its harsh climate and few available wood species, placed severe restrictions on their options for making tools and weapons, given the harsh climate and the few available wood species. The technology...

  13. 8 Mi-Te-Wi-Win Versus Christianity: Grand Sophia’s Story
    (pp. 209-224)

    I met Louis Bird in 1998 at a storytelling event at the University of Winnipeg. We quickly discovered we shared kinship ties among some of our ancestors who resided on Hudson and James Bays during the eighteenth century. One ancestor in particular was a Scottish-born fur trader, James Sutherland, who worked for the HBC. Louis also descends from a man named James Sutherland, although we have not yet found the critical link to tell us if we descend from the same man.

    In my never-ending quest to uncover stories about Swampy Cree women who formed marital unions with fur traders...

  14. 9 Conclusion: Problems and Hopes
    (pp. 225-246)

    In Chapter 1, I talked about the Omushkego life before contact and about the impact of what comes after contact—the fur trade, Christianization, and the education, residential school. Now I want to continue up to the present and to talk about some problems, but also my hopes.

    So far, I have mentioned very little about the treaty making. The treaty is something that concerns me because our young generation do not care much about it. The older generation who did not understand still have a question. But I am lucky to understand a few things. I know the treaty...

  15. references
    (pp. 247-258)
  16. notes on contributors
    (pp. 259-260)
  17. index
    (pp. 261-269)