A story by Skookum Casa Del Lobos.
A story by Skookum Casa Del Lobos
Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the Sun, Moon and Stars, of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water.
Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. In the beginning, Raven was a snow-white bird, and as a such, he pleased Gray Eagle’s daughter. She invited him to her father’s longhouse.
When Raven saw the Sun, Moon and stars, and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagle’s lodge, he knew what he should do. He watched for his chance to seize them when no one was looking. He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and flew out of the longhouse through the smoke hole. As soon as Raven got outside he hung the Sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the Sun set, he fastened the Moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.
He flew back over the land. When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh-water streams and lakes in the world. Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and made them black. When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the firebrand. It struck rocks and hid itself within them. That is why, if you strike two stones together, sparks of fire will drop out.
Raven’s feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand. That is why Raven is now a black bird.
Provided by the Ontario Metis Family Records Center- OMFRC- Community Newsletter “Feathers in the Wind” Feb 2011.
A potlatch is a festival ceremony practised by indigenous peoples of the Pacific.Northwest Coast. This includes Haida, Nuxalk, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw, and Coast Salish cultures. The word means “to give away” or “a gift”. It went through a history of rigorous ban by both the Canadian and United States’ federal governments.
At potlatch gatherings, a family or hereditary leader hosts guests in their family’s house and holds a feast for their guests. The main purpose of the potlatch is the re-distribution and reciprocity of wealth.
Different events take place during a potlatch, like either singing and dances, sometimes with masks or regalia, such as Chilkat blankets, the barter of wealth through gifts, such as dried foods, sugar, flour, or other material things, and sometimes money. For many potlatches, spiritual ceremonies take place for different occasions. This is either through material wealth such as foods and goods or non-material things such as songs and dances. For some cultures, such as Kwakwaka’wakw, elaborate and theatrical dances are performed reflecting the hosts’ genealogy and cultural wealth they possess. Many of these dances are also sacred ceremonies of secret societies like the hamatsa, or display of family origin from supernatural creatures such as the dzunukwa. Typically the potlatching is practiced more in the winter seasons as historically the warmer months were for procuring wealth for the family, clan, or village, then coming home and sharing that with neighbors and friends.
Within it, hierarchical relations within and between clans, villages, and nations, are observed and reinforced through the distribution or sometimes destruction of wealth, dance performances, and other ceremonies. The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. The hosts demonstrate their wealth and prominence through giving away goods.
We will dance when our laws command us to dance, and we will feast when our hearts desire to feast. Do we ask the white man, ‘Do as the Indian does?’ It is a strict law that bids us dance. It is a strict law that bids us distribute our property among our friends and neighbors. It is a good law. Let the white man observe his law; we shall observe ours. And now, if you come to forbid us dance, be gone. If not, you will be welcome to us.”
Celebration of births, rites of passages, weddings, funerals, namings, and honoring of the deceased are some of the many forms the potlatch occurs under. Although protocol differs among the Indigenous nations, the potlatch will usually involve a feast, with music, dance, theatricality and spiritual ceremonies. The most sacred ceremonies are usually observed in the winter.
It is important to note the differences and uniqueness among the different cultural groups and nations along the coast. Each nation, tribe, and sometimes clan has its own way of practicing the potlatch so as to present a very diverse presentation and meaning. The potlatch, as an overarching term, is quite general, since some cultures have many words in their language for all different specific types of gatherings. Nonetheless, the main purpose has been and still is the redistribution of wealth procured by families.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, gifts included storable food (oolichan [candle fish] oil or dried food), canoes, and slaves among the very wealthy, but otherwise not income-generating assets such as resource rights. The influx of manufactured trade goods such as blankets and sheet copper into the Pacific Northwest caused inflation in the potlatch in the late eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries. Some groups, such as the Kwakwaka’wakw, used the potlatch as an arena in which highly competitive contests of status took place. In some cases, goods were actually destroyed after being received, or instead of being given away. The catastrophic mortalities due to introduced diseases laid many inherited ranks vacant or open to remote or dubious claim—providing they could be validated—with a suitable potlatch.
The potlatch was a cultural practice much studied by ethnographers. Sponsors of a potlatch give away many useful items such as food, blankets, worked ornamental mediums of exchange called “coppers”, and many other various items. In return, they earned prestige. To give a potlatch enhanced one’s reputation and validated social rank, the rank and requisite potlatch being proportional, both for the host and for the recipients by the gifts exchanged. Prestige increased with the lavishness of the potlatch, the value of the goods given away in it.
Potlatching was made illegal in Canada in 1885 and the United States in the late nineteenth century, largely at the urging of missionaries and government agents who considered it “a worse than useless custom” that was seen as wasteful, unproductive, and contrary to “civilized” values.
The potlatch was seen as a key target in assimilation policies and agendas. Missionary William Duncan wrote in 1875 that the potlatch was “by far the most formidable of all obstacles in the way of Indians becoming Christians, or even civilized.” Thus in 1885, the Indian Act I was revised to include clauses banning the Potlatch and making it illegal to practice. The official legislation read,
“Every Indian or other person who engages in or assists in celebrating the Indian festival known as the “Potlatch” or the Indian dance known as the “Tamanawas” is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not more than six nor less than two months in a jail or other place of confinement; and, any Indian or other person who encourages, either directly or indirectly an Indian or Indians to get up such a festival or dance, or to celebrate the same, or who shall assist in the celebration of same is guilty of a like offence, and shall be liable to the same punishment.”
Eventually the potlatch law, as it became known, was amended to be more inclusive and address technicalities that had led to dismissals of prosecutions by the court. Legislation included guests who participated in the ceremony. The indigenous people were too large to police and the law too difficult to enforce. Duncan Campbell Scott convinced Parliament to change the offense from criminal to summary, which meant ‘the agents, as justice of the peace, could try a case, convict, and sentence.” Even so, except in a few small areas, the law was generally perceived as harsh and untenable. Even the Indian agents employed to enforce the legislation considered it unnecessary to prosecute, convinced instead that the potlatch would diminish as younger, educated, and more “advanced” Indians took over from the older Indians, who clung tenaciously to the custom.
Sustaining the customs and culture of their ancestors, indigenous people now openly hold potlatch to commit to the restoring of their ancestors’ ways. The ban was only repealed in 1951.
Provided by the Ontario Metis Family Records Center- OMFRC- Community Newsletter “Feathers in the Wind” Feb 2011
Nicaragua, Central America’s largest nation, was named for one of its original inhabitants, Chief Nicarao. The country is divided into three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific lowlands, the north-central mountains, and the Caribbean lowlands, also known as the Mosquito Coast or Mosquitía. Sometimes called the ‘Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,’ Nicaragua is the site of 11 major volcanoes––the ash of which has enriched the soil for farming––and two of Central America’s largest lakes; Lago de Managua and Lago de Nicaragua, which is home to the world’s only freshwater sharks. The nation’s rich avian life includes the quetzal (holy bird of the Maya) and its jungles contain trees that grow up to 60 metres (200 ft) high.
Nicaragua’s population is comprised primarily of mestizos (people of mixed European and Native American descent) but includes ethnic minorities of Native American, African and European background. The official language is Spanish, which although similar to that spoken in other Central American countries, is enriched with unique Nicaraguan slang. English and a number of indigenous tongues are spoken on the Caribbean coast.
Like most Central American countries, the basis of family structure is formed by the nuclear family. However, the system of compadrazgo (sets of relationships between a child and his or her godparents, and between parents and their child’s godparents) is extremely important. The culture is a blend of Hispanic and Native American elements. Music, which is a vital part of the country’s many festivals, includes such instruments as chirimias (wind instruments) marimbas, guitars, zuls (traditional flutes) and maracas. Poetry is one of the countries most treasured arts and includes the works of Rubén Darío who is known as the ‘Prince of Spanish-American literature.’ Traditional crafts include gold- and silverware and the making of guitars, mandolins and violins, straw mats, and hammocks. People living on the Solentiname Islands are well-known for a colourful and unusual style of paintings known as ‘Solentiname School,’ which has achieved international acclaim.
Provided by the Ontario Metis Family Records Center- OMFRC- Community Newspaper “Feathers in the Wind” Feb. 2011
Cree artist and print-maker, Virginia Pésémapéo Bordeleau, drew on her peoples’ spiritual relationship with the land and animals of the North for inspiration when creating the East Cree block. She has created her tribute to L’ours chasseur des étoiles (“The Star-chasing Bear”) on white-tanned moose-hide. The backdrop is a hand-painted, navy sky beaded with planets, moon and stars. They are being liberally tossed into the heavens by embroidered bear from the stores upon his shoulders. In traditional Cree mythology, the bear united with the first human woman sent down from the skies, and henceforth became known as “grandfather.”
The Cree’s traditional territory borders onto eastern James Bayand southeastern Hudson Bay, stretching westward to the plains. This area, the Cree call Iiyiyuuschii (land of the people), is approximately two-thirds the size of France. The people speak five dialects, all related to the Algonquian linguistic family. They call themselves Ayisiniwok (true men) or Iynu (the people) and areCanada’s largest First Nations group. The name Cree is the shortened version of “Kristenaux”, given to them by French fur traders.
The East Cree have also been known as the East-Main Cree, James Bay Cree, and Moose Cree. The various bands often view their own identity as quite distinct from each other. Still, they share many of the same cultural values and social mores. Hunting is a major part of their traditional practices, filled with meaning, beliefs and rituals. It is believed that as much skill as the hunter may have, it is the animal who gives itself to be killed. The process is a relationship between hunter and hunted, and success a mutual effort on behalf of both man and environment.
Once small nomadic groups, the Cree first came into contact with Europeans in 1610, during the explorations of Henry Hudson. Traders sought the highly prized fur pelts the Cree collected, providing a new way for them to earn a living. In modern times, the incursion of mining, forestry and hydroelectric projects (such as theJames Bayproject) has drastically affected their way of life and resulted in the forced relocation of entire villages. Yet to this day, the territory provides many Cree with their traditional livelihood from wild game such as moose, caribou, geese, and fish.
Provided by the Ontario Metis Family Records Center- OMFRC- Community Newsletter “Feathers in the Wind” .
The photo and text are from: http://www.invitationproject.ca/region.php
Many people ask how the Ontario Metis Family Records Center differs from the Metis Nation of Ontario, here is a brief explanation:
The MNO is a representative organization and as such negotiates with the government for Metis rights. As such, they are recognized by the government. The OMFRC focuses on documenting First Nations and Metis family histories. Many government departments refer people to us so we are also recognized by the government, but differently.
To join the MNO you must provide full documentation of your descent from an aboriginal person. The OMFRC will try to verify your aboriginal ancestry without full documentation from the information you are able to provide. The OMFRC has an extensive data base of First Nations and Metis family histories and tries to match what you provide against these files. We are very successful at this.
An email from one of the OMFRC members demonstrates how this is put into practice on a day to day basis:
“First let me tell you about how Aboriginal and Metis Status affects Donna Cona. If we are to maintain out status as an “aboriginal supplier”, we must maintain an average of 30% Aboriginal/Metis employees. Thanks to your efforts, our ratio has grown to 40%. We have passed every audit that asks us to show documentation that supports that average. Also, INAC and PSABA (http://www.psaba.com/) do recognize your organization and how it identifies ancestral links to the Aboriginal and Metis communities.”
“You offer a very specialized service to people like myself. People who are curious about their heritage, people who have little or no information to go on – people that wouldn’t have any idea as to how to get started. What an accomplishment and a testament to your organization. You have so much to be proud of. You are giving back to, supporting and increasing, members of a community. The OMFRC is contributing to my ongoing education about myself and my identity. I am grateful to all of you”.
This elegant rendering of an Arctic Rose was beaded by Dora McNeely onto moose hide, using pink and burgundy beads with a translucent outer coating. On either side with two delicate buds lie ready to burst open. This flower is a common theme among northern people, as it is one of the few flowering plants to survive the extreme cold of the Northwest Territories. Women of the Sahtu Dene use it to decorate many items, such as their slippers, jackets, vests and gloves. The blockmaker transferred a design made by her deceased mother, and created the block in her memory.
The Hare are one of four regional bands (along with Mountain Dene, Slavey and Sahtu Dene) who are recognized by anthropologists as being Sahtu Dene. Each band is associated with a distinct dialect of “the Slavey-Hare” language, one of 24 Northern Athapskan languages. The history of the Sahtu Dene is “written on the land” and they maintain an important relationship between their culture and the landscape. The Hare have lived for centuries in the forested areas that border the lower Mackenzie River valley.
They led a nomadic life of hunting, fishing and trapping. Their traditional territory stretched as far as the lands to the west and northwest of Great Bear Lake. In these regions they shared with other Dene nations. In 1789, Alexander Mackenzie, travelling with native guides, identified the Hare as being distinct, noting their heavy reliance on hare skins for their clothing. Indeed, their name, Hare, is believed to be an English translation of the tribal name Kawchottine, which refers to their reliance on the Snowshoe Hare for survival. The Hare population was relatively small at the time of contact (700-800 people).
The varied terrain of Hare territory provided large game (such as moose or caribou, depending on the region); while freshwater lakes were well stocked with trout, whitefish and other species. Hunting methods included use of bows, arrows, spears, snares, pounds and deadfalls. Small game fell to snares, hooks, willow-bark nets, or were caught in dams built across narrow streams. Plant-life was of minor significance to the diet. However, spruce sap was chewed as a gum and was used as a poultice for wounds, and certain lichens and mosses were boiled to make beverages and medicines. Favourite delicacies included caribou tongue, muskrat and beaver tails. Food was preserved by freezing in winter caches or by smoking it. Pemmican was made by pounding together meat or fish with berries and grease.
The establishment of trading posts, which soon grew into towns, encouraged regional concentrations of native populations throughout the north. Today, the two main Hare communities having the greatest concentrations within their traditional territory are Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, NWT.
Provided by the Ontario Metis Family Records Center- OMFRC- Community Newsletter “Feathers in the Wind” .
Here is an excerpt from an email between our Director Art Haines and one of the OMFRC Data Entry Volunteers Kris Cant: “Kris, every single name you enter adds to the database and each name may relate to hundreds or even thousands of other people. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle and each name is an essential piece. Some day when the database is near completion it will provide an awesome picture of the history of Canada and its native people and you are one of the artists.”
Provided by the Ontario Metis Family Records Center- OMFRC- Community Newsletter “Feathers in the Wind”.