Feast for the Geese and One Tough Old Bird!

Community Welcome Back from Goose Break Feast

Community Welcome Back from Goose Break Feast

One of Andy’s students was adamant that we go with him to the Goose Break Community Feast.

“I will pick you up at 5:30 and you will be my guests,” he told us.

Round tables were set up at the arena for the event. On stage, tepees had been erected on a layer of spruce boughs, providing a place for kids to play hide and seek during the evening. Each table was set up with water bottles and a platter of fresh baking:  blueberry muffins, gently spiced boudin, thick, chewy cookies, and my beloved frybread.

Groups were already seated, and more families trickled in as mothers breastfed their babies, with grandparents toting toddlers, and the children playing quietly.

The feast was to begin at 5:45. Food was distributed, elders first, and then we waited for opening prayers … and waited and waited. That frybread, with the slightly crunchy crust, and soft innards, tasting so faintly of cinnamon and nutmeg was looking better and better. I was going to faint if I couldn’t bite into a piece soon!

Finally prayers were offered in Cree and we were able to tuck into our dinners.  Plates of two types of macaroni salad and a generous portion Canada goose were set before us. It was a surprisingly dark brown colour. I grab my plastic fork and knife and begin to cut. After breaking two tines of my fork I give up. Our host is watching me with amusement.

“You’ve got to eat Indian style,” he demonstrated as he grabbed the carcass and chewed.

I noticed that everyone was doing all right with their plastic implements. Next time I bring cutlery – but wait, didn’t I have that little Swiss army knife attached to my key chain? Eventually, I did manage to saw off a small piece of goose. It was chewy and tough, with a slight livery under taste.

This was also a special time for young boys, who had shot their first goose. They were called to the stage one by one and were presented with a certificate which indicated the age of the boy, the date of the first kill and the type of weapon used. Each child was applauded and pictures were taken of the beaming boys, some as young as six.

After dessert and a raffle for door prizes donated from local businesses or the band council, it was time for a goose calling competition. First the men held their contest to much hilarity and then the women. If I was goose, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, they sounded so good!

A young woman handed out pieces of beaded jewelry at random to women and I was the lucky recipient of a pretty pair of pink earrings. Must get my ears repierced.

The next day I asked another student why he wasn’t at the feast, because I saw the rest of his family there.

“I like my goose fresh, roasted on a fire,” he replied.

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Green Grass and Blue Waters

The view from our window in May

The view from our window in May

“How was the hunt?” I asked Andy as we approached Mistissini on our way back after Goose Break.

It hadn’t been that great, he explained. Instead of the usual 100 or so geese per hunter, this year’s yield was far less.

The ice had melted too quickly.

For the hunt, a large opening is carved in the lake with chain saws. In this artificial lake, decoys are set. But with the rapid melting of the ice, the decoys scattered making hunting less contained when the geese landed.

Spring came quickly this year. Just before Goose Break, the lake was frozen solid and there were several feet of snow on the ground. Now the lake was blue and the trees were shimmering pale green.

Up here, Spring CAN arrive too soon!

Winter View
Winter View