Macaroni Salad and Beaver Paws

Walking out ceremony. The girl is actually the little boy's aunt.  **

Walking out ceremony. The girl is actually the little boy’s aunt. **

We arrived at the feast for the two children who had their walking out ceremony that morning with a large aluminum foil baking pan of macaroni salad. We didn’t really know what else to bring …  The event also coincided with the first birthday of one of the children.

The Sabutan longhouse was festively decorated with balloons and streamers. Several large congratulatory and birthday cakes were displayed on a table.

I set my salad between half a dozen similar pasta salads and stood at the end of the line up for food. While waiting, I was able to identify the huge dishes of turkey, moose, ham, and beaver. That one dish was definitely beaver, I surmised this by the clawed foot that was clearly sticking out of the mass of meat. The beaver paws, apparently are coveted by women and the head, by men.

Where were the serving spoons? The young woman in front of me saw my hesitation.

“You just grab it, Indian style!” she laughed. This is the second time I’ve been told how to eat right.

The procedure is to pile your plate with as much meat as possible, filling in the gaps with macaroni salad(s). On top of this, donuts and fry bread can be heaped. Additional cookies can be easily inserted into the macaroni salad.

People don’t go back for seconds; leftovers are quickly piled up onto paper plates and covered in foil to take home. No food is wasted.

Then you eat!  But quietly… If my family had been there, there’d been laughter, gentle teasing, interruptions, reaching over each other for condiments, noise decibels escalating as each member competed to be heard.

Even the children are quiet. Nicholas sat in his high chair in a little suit, gravely observing gifts as they were opened. Emma, slightly older, and more steady on her feet, ran about with a handful of balloons.

After dinner, a young woman passed around a plate of Nicholas’s leftovers. We were told that it was considered an honour to take a portion. I quickly speared a noodle.

Clean up is easy with everything being disposable. The table-cloth, with everything on it, is just bundled and tossed.

All this meat … for someone who has been a vegetarian and who still doesn’t eat much meat, it is a challenge. Being anaphylactic to fish doesn’t help either. Can a woman live on macaroni salad alone?

** I took some lovely pictures, but I am sensitive to posting pictures of children and chose this one because the faces are indecipherable.  

Walking Out Ceremony

Walking Out - a boy bringing a goose to the elders.  A hunter is born!

Walking Out – a boy bringing a goose to the elders. A hunter is born!

We were invited to a walking out ceremony for Saturday morning. We arrived at 8:00 sharp with a plate of cookies and a thermos of tea.

This is a very important event in the life of a child, when a boy or girl is introduced to the community and the traditional roles they will play.

With the help of his father, a little boy will shot a gun into the air, and then drag small game to the awaiting elders.  A hunter is born!  A little girl will chop at a tree with a symbolic axe and then drag a bundle of firewood to the elders, to show how she will keep the home fires burning.

After much shaking of hands and congratulations all around, the boy’s father invited us to the feast that evening.  Would we go?  Of course!

Walkers and Walking out Ceremony

Image of Walking Out Ceremony

Image of Walking Out Ceremony

A notice for a Walking Out Ceremony on snowshoes was posted on the bulletin board at Meechum. This ceremony occurs when a girl or boy is introduced to the community and to the traditional roles they will play.

A beautiful description of this ceremony can be found at http://www.creeculture.ca.

The idea of toddlers taking their first snowshoe walk and the ceremony involved was irresistible. I had planned to attend.  Also, at noon, the “Walkers” (see link below) would be welcomed on the final leg of their journey. I wanted to witness this too.

Over the last few days, I had watched the construction of smaller longhouses, set up for the ceremonies. These structures were erected skilfully and quickly, with spruce flooring, and a tent stretched over a wood frame.

Some of Andy’s students had slipped out at lunch time for a moose rib or two.

By the time we arrived at the site, after Andy finished work, it was too late. We do miss a lot of local events because they are announced in Cree on the local radio station.

It wasn’t too late for the town’s dogs. We found them gnawing on moose hoofs, with hide still on.

Here is a link about the walkers.

http://www.ahki.ca/journey-of-nishiyuu.php