Goose Hunting with Charlie and his many Brothers

On our way to the Manitounuk Islands

On our way to the Manitounuk Islands

It was a good day for a hunt … Andy and I stood at the shoreline, 12 kilometres out of town, waiting for Charlie to pick us up.

Andy pointed at a small white structure on the Manitounuk Islands across the straight.

“There’s the camp.”

“Don’t point!” I said. “It’s bad luck and will bring the winds.”

Sure enough, moments later, the glass-smooth water roiled up.

We watched as the small dot of Charlie’s wooden boat expanded and became recognizable.

He and his brothers had already set up camp days before. When we arrived, a fire was warming the tent and a large pot of tea was brewing on the crude metal woodstove.

I asked Charlie about seals and other animals, and the lone muskox rumoured to be on the island.

“We don’t hunt seal,” Charlie explained. “The Inuit do. They are very patient.” He demonstrated how an Inuit hunter would stand, harpoon raised at a blow-hole, not moving for hours. One tap of a foot might warn off a seal.

“Our seal is otter. They taste the same,” he said. He also confirmed that there was, indeed, a muskox and that people would boat over to photograph it.

Seals are found on the other end of the island, but are not hunted by the Cree. Perhaps this is why the two communities have existed amicably for so long. They hunt or fish different game.

We packed up our gear and headed to a little lake where decoys had been set up for Canada Geese and Snow Geese. The hunters settled in the blind to wait. Five snow geese had already been taken that morning. While the hunters waited, I wandered about. It was impossible to get lost.

Charlie's catch of the day

Charlie’s catch of the day

I heard the geese before I saw them and quickly laid down, as instructed, on the barren landscape. I heard shots. When I returned from my ambles, several geese had been taken.

“Did you get one?” I asked Andy.

“First shot, first kill,” he beamed.

The geese are gutted at the camp and brought back home, where the women pluck them. How long? Charlie says it would take him two hours to pluck a bird, but it only takes his wife takes 15 minutes. (I would be a terrible Cree wife. I’d rather be hunting with the men, than plucking geese at home … I just had to add that).

Dark, heavy clouds appeared, and it started to drizzle. All of the eight hunters decided to head home, along with their equipment and weapons. I was a bit worried, but the boat held up surprizingly well.

Charlie said he would speak to his grandfather and there would be a feast to commemorate Andy’s first kill. Andy’s pure white goose would then be cooked and eaten.

Usually it is a boy of 6, 7 or 8 who is honoured for this important event. Andy will probably hold the record for most senior honouree.

The gang of hunters

The gaggle of hunters




More pictures to be found:


Berries and Tea

Blueberries, cranberries and labrador tea

Blueberries, cranberries and labrador tea

We picked berries and tea leaves today. Surprizingly, there were still berries this late in the season. The blueberry bushes had turned russet, and the cranberries were close to the ground and difficult to find, but Labrador tea is always plentiful. The cranberries were touched by frost, and very sweet, not at all tart.

We hope to have enough for a blueberry pie and cranberry sauce by Thanksgiving.

Gone Hunting!

The Mystical Manitounuk Islands

The Mystical Manitounuk Islands

One of Andy’s students asked if we’d like to go his camp on the mystical Manitounuk Islands.

Up here there are two goose hunts. One in the Spring when the geese head North, and one in Fall, when they return South.

We’ll take a boat to the islands. I must be careful; it is said that you cannot point at them, as it will bring on fierce winds.

It’s a haven for seals and birds and apparently, one lone musk ox.

Can’t wait!

If you don’t hear from us by Monday, call the coast guard!

Not a Mouse in the House

We’ve been besieged by mice. Mice droppings are everywhere including the inside of our  slippers. We’ve set traps, but the little rodents have snacked on peanut butter day after day, with no casualties.

Last night I woke up to Andy chasing a mouse throughout the house with his slipper. It ran to hide under the washing machine. Andy patiently laid on his stomach long enough for the mouse to muster up the courage to and venture out. After about 45 minutes he nailed it. But we know there’s plenty more.

I miss my cat!

Blood and Other Stuff

I was called in to work a shift at the detention centre on Sunday. We had no plans, except for a visit to the gym and some movies on this drizzly day, so I agreed.

Great chance to catch up on CNN (we do not have TV) and dive into the Game of Thrones. I’ve watched the series, but never read the books.

I was called in to work a shift at the detention centre on Sunday. We had no plans, except for a visit to the gym and some movies on this drizzly day, so I agreed.

Great chance to catch up on CNN (we do not have TV) and dive into the Game of Thrones. I’ve watched the series, but never read the books.

It was quiet until an obviously inebriated detainee was brought in. I spent the evening listening to his demands, pleas of innocence, and brewing him herbal tea to help settle his stomach.

He was very, very drunk. Apparently, having a reading of over 400 on the standard breathalyzer scale has been observed. A reading of .08 is considered intoxicated.

Today’s difficult insisted on being taken to the local clinic for stomach pains and vomiting.

I tried to convince him to lie down, drink water and wait for the alcohol wore off. He managed to remove some on his arm from a knife wound spewed blood all over the cell.

“I’m bleeding, help me!” he called, as he passed bloody sheets and pillows through his slot, which I made a point of not touching. I gave him some fresh towels to bandage up his open wounds.

“Do you have any bobby pins?” he asked me. I realized then that he had been removing his stitches himself and wanted to have a better tool. His retching and vomiting worsened.

He had a history with the centre and the constables who didn’t seem impressed until he claimed to be vomiting blood. What to expect of spending two weeks drinking 24% proof alcohol … The herbal tea had given him had a red tinge, but to be safe, he was brought to the clinic. He was soon sent back to the detention centre when she found him sticking his fingers down his throat.

As for those who have asked about a previous post about “Jack,” we almost had a good day. I took him to the library as a reward. I turned my back for a moment and had a magazine winged at me.

At least is was not a hard covered book. That woulda hurt!

And then there was Jack …

I spent the morning with my student with special needs. I enjoyed learning with him and learning how to teach him. I look forward to working with his brother.

And then there was Jack …

The Inuktitut teacher, who normally prefers to not have assistance in her class, asked if I could come in and help contain Jack.

Watching Jack every second, and helping my special needs student, was difficult. At one point Jack glared at me and said “You are supposed to be MY shadow.”
Maybe this is something to work with. Maybe he can earn the privilege of having a shadow?

I stayed after class to help the Inuktitut teacher remove sharp pencils from the ceiling tiles that Jack had imbedded. Fortunately he’s a small kid and if I keep out of his aim, he cannot do much damage. Last year he attacked a teacher with a hockey stick and she required stitches. Hmmm …. Should I request hazard pay?