Mr. and Mrs. HENRI GERMAIN, (Cassette Code 1, Interview conducted in 1988)
Their parents were originally from Mashteuiatsh and their grandparents may have been born in Pessamit but he was not sure. He is proud to be Ilnu and also of the way he was given information about trapping. They started out for the forest at the end of the summer i.e. in August and did not return until June. They lived off moose and hare because there were not many beavers. They ate only meat from the woods. Before leaving for the forest, they bought 12 sacks of flour, 200 lbs of sugar, fat, salt lard. They took a great deal of salt and baking powder.
When they returned some of the provisions remained, they left them in the woods. The place where they trapped was called: Massishk (Cedar Lake). It was on the Mistassini River. They went the whole journey in a canoe with all their provisions. When they disembarked, first they searched for meat to be smoked and conserved it for the winter. The paddling trip lasted a little over a month. A number of families set out at the same time, their family, that of Noe Germain, Barthélemie Germain, his brother Michel Germain and his wife. They all paddled together until they separated each to go to their respective territory. He remembered when he was still very young (about 4 years old) that there were not many beaver. It was due a drought that they had and the water level was very low. There was only mink and marten. He began to go with his father at about the age of 15. They went very far to tend their traps and did not return until late in the evening. Sometimes, it was by canoe and it was necessary to paddle through the rapids; other times they went on snowshoes. They used guns for hunting. They bought them at the Hudson Bay Company for about 20.00$. The 22 calibre guns were 6.00$.
A hundred traps of different sizes were bought. His father built toboggans. He made at least five (5) when they were all together with his sisters and brothers. They spent the whole winter under a tent and often changed location; about every fifteen (15) days. He said that in the past the Ilnutsh were nomads. They never stayed long at the same place. During their trip, they sometimes met Cree families. Their tent resembled a wigwam and three (3) families lived in the same tent. He related that primarily they hunted to survive and not to make a lot of money. His mother skinned the killed animals and stretched them. She prepared the meals while his father hunted. She also collected wood for heating. He also had big sisters who hunted in the surrounding area. When they returned, they sold their furs to the Hudson Bay Company and also paid their debts. The manager was Mr. Folley at that time. There were no Indians working in the store, only whites. Snares for hares were not sold at that time and so they used cord such as was used to make fishing nets. There was a way to make them. He says that he is still able to make them today.
So that the hare does not bite through the cord one dips it first in the liver of a lynx and then the hare will not chew it. It was his father who taught him this. He related that his grandfather Etienne Germain drowned while trapping in the autumn at (Ka Upashkueiatsh) Serpent Lake. Here at Mashteuiatsh, his grandparents camped at tatipeuiautsh (long point).
He talked about the sweat tent. He said that his father (François Germain) made sweat tents (matitishan). He said that they used alder branches to set the tent up and also used canvas; it was for healing someone and the tent had to be closed tightly. He said that he had already seen people coming from here entering this lodge. His wife related that when an ill person was very hot and sweated, that the illness was going out of him. One must cover him properly so that when he leaves the lodge he will not catch cold. He said that he had always been catholic and had been baptised and also his parents and that he still practised. He said that it was a very long time ago that priests came here. They came here paddling and they also travelled the territories looking for Ilnutsh. We were not yet born at that time. His wife said that the priests went everywhere in the forest to hear confessions from the Ilnutsh and to say the mass. She said that they also came to baptise and that it was at this time that they began to pray. The first person here to have a car was Léon Jourdain and my brother Michel bought one also and Patrick Etienne followed and Joseph Connolly. Also Joseph Dominique had an automobile and also Maleck Manigouche. Those who had an automobile made trips for those who wanted to go to Roberval to shop. They charged 1.00$ to go to Roberval. There was also the train that cost $ 0.25 to go.
Formerly when the families went into the forest, they had a large makushan for everyone. Today this no longer happens. Just from time to time at Amerindian Fairs this type of makushan occurs. In the past when an Ilnu came from the forest and arrived close to the community he fired rifle shots. Thus everyone heard the shots saying that someone was coming. In the past people came to find Indians to join the army. They did not look for those who were in the territory, just those who were in the community. To conserve meat, first they dried it and then ground it up so that it could be eaten during the summer. And when a moose was killed, it was soaked in salt; this way it would not become putrid. It was this way that we conserved our meat. Bear was smoked and it was the same for beaver. It was always my mother who cooked the meat either inside the tent or outside. She cooked it with salt lard with very little water, (this was called pakuessikueshim) or she cooked it on a skewer close to a stove (this was called tshituham) it was in this manner that our ancestors ate. Beaver, it could be cooked in the same way also.
Each time when we met people in the territory, we had a makushan.
I have already eaten a little bear fat but not much, because it can give you diarrhoea. The Cree eat a lot of bear fat. In the territory when a person is very sick, he is given all sorts of plants or medicinal wood, such as mountain-ash, wild cherry, or spruce. For labour, when a woman is ready to give birth and there are other women around, they help each other. It is the female elders who go and the husband also helps. His wife said that if there are no female elders around and there are just the two of them then the man must help his wife to give birth. He said that his father had always helped his wife and there was never a woman around him. He said that they were all born in the forest. He had never had a still-born baby in the forest. He said that the oldest of the seniors in the community was called Etienne Basile. He said that at home he spoke only Montagnais. His father learned to speak a little French when he went to work. The first to bring French here were the Gills, Robertsons and Buckells. Me, I learned to speak French by working with engineers and by being a guide. To amuse ourselves we played football in the evenings. We held a great makushan on the edge of the lake. We set-up a large table with people coming from the territory. They brought their meat.
Everyone cooked. There were also children. We served the children first. When we finished the meal, we started to dance. We sang in Ilnu and played the drum (teuehikan). There was an elder called tshishelniu Damien (which means to say the old Damien). He was called Damien Siméon. He was very old. The folks danced while he sang. He hadn’t much breath and everyone was happy to help him. This was repeated each year and it was a celebration to remember. He said that his father had already told him that he had seen people smoking the pipe of peace. They smoked while dancing. It was just the Ilnutsh who smoked and there were no whites. It was the Ilnutsh who came from our community. There was an elder called Pishaish who had a peace pipe. He said that it belonged to us. He (Pishaish) and his grandfather came from the north. He was Inuit. He came with his wife. But he Pishaish was married to a girl from here. He was the father of Mr. Gabriel Kurtness and Edouard Kurtness. He was married twice. He had Gabriel with his first wife. When a child is born and is not baptised that does not frighten them. When someone arrives at their camp he asks if he may baptise their baby. Consecrated water and salt is used for the traditional baptism. He said that his father had already performed this type of baptism for the child of Mr. Charles Cleary.He said that certain Cree were very great shaman.
When a shaman is annoyed with a person, he can send a spell just using his thoughts. My father has already received a spell. He annoyed a shaman. During a whole year he killed nothing at all while trapping. Many Ilnutsh can be shaman even a pekuakamiulnu may be one. He said that animal heads that one hangs from a tree, such as hare or beaver heads tell the story of the people who camped at this location. They tell of the hunting that these people have done. They are content to say that these people have had good hunting and have eaten very well. These heads tell their story so that the next people who pass by know that it all went well. The Ilnutsh have always done that. Before the priests arrived, he said that they prayed in their own way. He related that the priests went to the territory to find the Ilnutsh. Father Décarie spent two years at Onistagan. There was no malice from the Ilnutsh there when they wanted to make the reserve at this location. It was him, Father Décarie, who wished to make this into a reserve. There were some who agreed but others did not. Me I did not and my father did not want it either. It was too far. We already went to this location to trap. He said that he had already seen the shaking tent (kushapissikan). He said that there was only one person who entered but no one saw that person; one must hide it. There was a certain Mr. Lévesque who came to meet him and spoke to him about compensation for the flooded territories. He said that he had told him, that the aboriginals do not think the same way as most of the whites think. He told him that the Indian does not think just of tomorrow but he thinks much further ahead. He told him what the elders think. He told him that they did not think of themselves because they will die soon but they think of the young, for their future. He told him that, for them, money had no importance. They think rather of the territory which they will leave to the youngsters there who in turn will pass to their children. He also told him that for them it was not money that they wanted but their life style that they once practised in their territory. No dams and take back our territory as it was before. He said that before the government separated the territory for each family, there were never misunderstandings. He said that he had never heard an Indian say «this is my territory go away» in the way that this happens today. There was much self-help between families and we understood each other well. Today, it is no longer the same.