Indian and Metis Elders of La Ronge

Fonds name: 
Indian and Metis Elders of La Ronge
Accession number: 
S-354 to S-365
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Interviews conducted in 1981 under a contract by the Saskatchewan Archives Board. Hunting, trapping and fishing once provided both native and Métis people of the north with a means of survival. Today, with mineral exploration and technological advances, the old ways of life as they used to know it are rapidly disappearing. Their reminiscences of how it used to be with comparisons to life in the present are important and provide significant insight into the adjustments they have had to make to fit into today's society. A resident of La Ronge since her early childhood, Janet Fietz knows the informants interviewed well. She speaks fluently in both Cree and English, an important fact as most informants are not comfortable with the English language. All but three interviews were conducted in Cree. Most informants were born in the late 1800s or early 1900s and speak of their childhoods, moving from place to place hunting, trapping and fishing. They always returned to the settlement of La Ronge or Stanley Mission at Christmas time to go to church and to pick up supplies. Some returned to the settlements in the summer. Children went to school at this time and families busied themselves with large gardens. Three of the informants attended the mission school at La Ronge, separated from their families throughout the year. One informant's father had been trained as a teacher and preacher and was involved in choosing the site for the school and its construction. The others describe their lives at school, meals, teachers, their chores and other activities. One speaks of the buildings and houses that existed in La Ronge at that time. They recall returning to their families to learn from their parents the skills necessary for survival in the bush. Many of the informants speak of tanning hides, the uses they made of these, trapping for furs and trading them, drying meat and making pemmican to prevent spoilage. One person, in describing dried and pounded fish, said it looked much like cornflakes. They used to eat this and other dried meat with all kinds of wild berries. Another individual recalls making birch tree syrup using much the same process as for maple syrup. To travel, they used dog teams in winter and canoes in summer. Two of the informants describe the building of birch bark canoes. The use of snowshoes is mentioned and their construction is also described. In speaking of their lives at present, many are saddened by the attitudes of young people who are finding it difficult to make their way in today's world. The influence of liquor has been felt by several of the informants as they have seen its destructive power in the community and in their families. All are grieved that people today have fallen so far from their faith and their church, recalling going to church as a child three times on Sundays and hearing, in the evenings, various families praying together in their homes. Receiving the old age pension and being cared for in an old age home means much for several of the informants yet many look back and wish for the spirit of those earlier days.
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