[These interviews with hunters, trappers and other residents of Whapmagoostui were recorded for the Grand Council of the Crees/CRA, by Douglas Nakashima and Marie RouÃ©, and published in a Final Report in August 1994, from which they are extracted. They give a poignant account of the anguish among the people at the idea of a Hydro project being built in their land, and also are a treasure-house of information about Cree culture, and Cree attitudes to the land, animals and nature. This document deals with Eeyou knowledge of the land and animals.]
[Note: The line of four dots between paragraphs indicates a new speaker].
I was really happy about what I have learned about the animal life and the way I saw the land. I can't show or say exactly what I know about the land. I can't exactly show for many people to see. It takes someone who thinks about the animals, to know and understand exactly what I have been saying. If someone thinks the same way and if someone really loves the animal life and the land, I know they'll understand my thinking.
When we are out on the land we learn a lot about the environment and its surroundings because we live in harmony with the animals. They help us maintain our human environments. For example, the animals tell us when we will lose our loved ones, even the land speaks out when a disaster will occur.
Most Cree hunters know everything there is to know about the land, just as a southerner knows the city or the very streets he has lived on all his life. For example someone in a city might say, "You can get this product at that street. It's a small store, but you get very good quality products there". So in this same sense, the Cree people will say, 'It's a very small lake, you would never think of finding fish there but you find all kinds of fish in this small lake". All kinds of discoveries have happened on the land for thousands of years, therefore the Cree people will know if we were to document all the loss that will occur.
We have to say more, because, you know, we communicate by speaking, we can t have charts, we don't have books, we don't have scientific written data to back up what we're saying, you have to take our word for it. If you want our point of reference, we'll take you out on the land to show you what we mean. But there was no time for that.
In a way, X was trying to do this on his own with a video camera. He said, "I even talked as I walked and I was able to tell more of what I know about each plant, etc." Just like the way "Job's Garden" was done, the video, which shows that way of talking about each plant and who eats it, when does it grow or what's the use of it, including the animals and their habits.
It would be good to let people tell in detail what they know of the land as they walk the land and all the history and knowledge contained in it. I think they would love to share their knowledge of the land and one will see the amount of knowledge one has of each area that is important to the Cree people.
This is what we think of, not for us, but for all generations of grandchildren even if we the elders are no longer here. But we will still be with them. This is how it is when someone listens to what the elder is teaching. Even if he doesn't see him, he is still with him and remembers what he taught him. That's how it is. The teachings of the elders. If one listens he will be made strong and he will be strong and confident. But if he doesn't listen he won't be able to do anything and will know nothing.
You see, all that I know I was taught by elders when my father died. I was very young when my father died. My mother, then, told me she was not going to be the person to raise me, but L would be raised by another family. I never thought of going back to my mother's words to whatever she told me. As I grew older, I was moved around a lot. When they did this to me, this was a teaching for me, to know and learn how to survive.
Now as I am older, I am very thankful to be able to do what my mom has told me. My father could not teach me, only my mother. And her teachings are always with me from what she wanted me to know and fr9m what the elders taught me. I am very thankful when I remember their teachings. They were truly great in the way they wanted me to know how to do things.
This is how a child can be when he respects the teachings of an elder. In the future, much into the future, he can see this and how good it is for him and believe with his own eyes when he sees this. This is why they say we should respect our elders. They have their teachings and they have their knowledge even though we feel they can not do anything anymore. We should never feel this way about our elders, that they cannot do anything, because they are our teachers and they were our first teachers when they were much stronger.
Look, one time, there were a group of Cree people that passed by here (traveled on foot during the wintertime). When they got here families came over to Whapmagoostui where they couldn't move because of hunger. I don't know which direction they came from. There were a lot of them (The Cree people). One of the old women thought of cutting some wood, which she did. Then she looked around to see a pond not bigger than the building over there across from here. She then thought that she should try to make a hole through the ice. She made a hole through the ice and put her fishing line in. As she was chopping wood, she looked over to check where she had her fishing line. She saw the stick to her line was down. She went over to check it and when she pulled her line in it felt really heavy. She pulled up the line and up came a very big trout. She then took it home to cook for the people and said to them, "The ice is not really thick here and the current is not strong, I am going to put my net out". She then put her net out. It was on the same day. For those people that could not move in the morning, twice the old woman came back with a load of fish that she couldn't make with one trip. This is how they survived. This is how they came. If that old woman didn't find a way, probably one of them would have died, because already they were unable to move.
This is why, on my trapline, I respect it because this is from where the people came to survive. Even though it looks like a little river (stream) where she got the fish. She was the one who found the pond "nasagau" abicgauhebanouch. It's called, nasagau. (winter net fishing). You probably would not think of fishing there. You probably wouldn't if nobody was there with you. You wouldn't think of putting out a net there. It only looks like a crooked stream. You cannot paddle straight on it.
The old woman I was talking about was your grandmother. You cannot put a net 30 arms length straight across the stream. You have to put it with the river, because the river is too small.
Then one time again, my brother, told us "You can do whatever you like. You know I'd never stop you from doing anything. Whatever you think is best and I cannot tell you to go this way because of the distance" he said. We were very hungry. When we left we were hungry and did not eat anything. My brother said, "Don't hesitate, I would go across here and go this way. Don't hesitate to go to the river where there usually are ptarmigan". This is the same river where the old woman did the winter net fishing, where the ptarmigan usually are during the winter.
So we walked. As soon as we got closer, we could spot ptarmigans. When we reached the place where they usually were, it seemed they were everywhere. We started shooting them. We must have killed over twenty and there were only two of us. I said to him that we should stop killing them now and go. Now this place, where we were able to get food to eat, gave us enough to eat before reaching our destination to Whapmagoostui.
This is why I respect this place and here there will soon be nothing left. Everything will be underwater. And the geese like to eat there. Their food is very good there and the ptarmigan. This is why I am very unhappy that the land will be destroyed. A lot of people survived from here and was brought up here. This is why I am not happy for it to be destroyed.
We know the land because we have seen it, we were raised from it, lived off the land. We know more about it than the whiteman. I really believe it, Cree people know more and I believe what the Cree people are saying, what damages there will be, how it will affect the animals. I believe the Cree rather than the whiteman telling us what will happen to the animal life.
Also, why I really believe the Crees because I know they really know the animal life, that is where they lived most of their lives, grew up there. It'slike as if they learned all through their lives about the animal life. They grew up knowing all these things. They keep all these things in mind. They know everything because the only thing they use is their minds. They have a lot of knowledge and keep it.
As for the whiteman, they have their knowledge in a different way. They use books. The land we look at, whenever the whiteman wants to go somewhere, they use maps and compasses. This will help them to know where they should go and this is what helps them find where they want to go. For the Cree people, they don't do this, they use their heads, brains. It's there on the land, how they can know these things. Even for hunting too, they watch the kind of days which are good for hunting. They know what to look for on certain days. The Cree people know all these things. They also know where to look. They even know how to use the winds for hunting purposes. The Cree people have learned all these things, while growing up in the bush. They have a very good idea on what kinds of days, they can hunt for certain animals. I know how we Cree people are and that is why I'd rather listen and believe the Crees saying about what will happen to the animal life, once the land is destroyed, our land. I'd rather listen to the Crees than the Whiteman.
I was reading the other day about some reactions to the statements. They've been doing studies in the Manitounuk Sound for I don't know how many years now, and they based the results and their conclusions of the fish populations there on 17 fish. Is that all they caught in all those years, 17 fish? I mean, there are hundreds of fish in there. How seriously did they undertake to do that particular study? And how can one possibly base his conclusions about the effects of the project ... effects which will be felt for hundreds of years ... on 17 fish? Again I say, give me a break, that's totally off the wall. Who does that person think we are? Seventeen fish, just 17 fish it took for this guy to figure out what's going to happen, what the implications are, everything. From 17 fish. I would have to say this guy?s a God, if he can figure out all that much from 17 fish.
We, the EEYOU, are always asking to do research about the feasibility of the project and to show that we are telling the truth when we say that the EEYOU had occupied this part of the country for a long, long time. But if we hire the WAMISTIKUSIU to search for proof of our occupation [and history], they will not find much, without an EEYOU to guide them to places which the EEYOU deemed important [in terms of productivity] even though it might be written on a map. It is those people [Hydro archaeological scientists and others working on the impact studies] that we have been working with who work on those things that we feel are important as EEYOU. We want to show them the places/areas which were very important to the EEYOU and the places/areas where the EEYOU used to harvest game/fish over the hundreds of years and had sustained them and where the old campsites are located. It is the old campsites [leading up to the more recent sites] that tell the truth of the importance of certain areas for the EEYOU. Sometimes, on the map, it is told where the digs will take place. But some of the indications where the digs should be are right on the rocky slopes/cliffs where no one can go. But if an EEYOU worked on the map to make the indications where the old campsites might be find, he would know where it is a good place to land and where the EEYOU used to camp.
As for the older campsites, there is no time to study the whole length of the river of those campsites where the present EEYOU can not remember where they are but are there [but could find by the digs], on both sides of the river. Sometimes, the sites indicated on the map can not even been dug because they happen to be on rocky slopes/cliffs and there is no place for an helicopter to land.
My late father and the elders of that generation spoke of what would happen to the land once industrial development has occurred. I recall one example given by my late father. He said that during the spring time when rivers and streams thaw1 certain species that dwell in these river valleys are unable to reside by the river beds because of the natural erosion of their habitat thus, they have to look elsewhere to sustain themselves.
Now when I think of this process of natural erosion I can imagine what the reservoirs can do to the wildlife habitat once the dams have been constructed. The natural habitat of the animal species will be destroyed.
All that I have been talking about, all these birds, whether they nest in trees, rocks, or sitting atop a tree, nesting near lakes, all these areas can be flooded out and these habitats will be lost in the flood. These birds nest in these areas because their food is easily accessible to them and that is where their young survival was ensured. I see all of this being lost forever once the flooding has began. Some of the things I have talked about, I do not see them being mentioned in this book [Summary of Hydro Quebec's impact statement - Cree version].
A: I could talk about many other things that I am knowledgeable about, the habits and behaviors of the NTUHUUN. For instance, I know of many things that are not mentioned in this book. I have mentioned the animals that live in burrows/dens.
All that I have been talking about, I see that it will all be destroyed because of the flooding. All that I am talking, I am telling everything that I know will be destroyed in the flood. I can tell from my knowledge of the habits and behaviors of the animals in the proposed flooded area.
I know the young-rearing habits and behaviors of the animals that I am familiar with that live in this area. I know the areas where they like to live best.
All that I have talked about up to now, I have told you only a small part of what I know of it, all these kinds of NTUHUUN. It appears that I have told you just a small part of what I know of these animals. I have not mentioned other creatures of what I know of them. All that I have talked about and not talked about will all be impacted by this planned event that will happen on this land. It will all be lost and will be displaced once the flooding has started and when this river is dammed.
(...)It is not only what will happen to the animals that will have impacts to the EEYOU.All these things will all be destroyed. The EEYOU will be greatly affected by this event. It will not only be because of what will happen to the NTUHUUN. The greatest effect will come from the actual destruction of the land where the EEYQU used to NTUHU, where he used to make his home. There will be other consequences other than what I have mentioned. In this book, I know that many of the things I have mentioned and the way I see these effects happening are not mentioned in this book at all. The EEYOU will be greatly devastated because many things will be lost for him when this event happens, like where he got things to use to make things that he used in his daily life.
All that I have talked is about what I know and experienced personally and have heard talked about which was passed down the generations.
If the dam is built all of what the Cree people have come to cherish and respect will be destroyed. The river that flows from the north contains a large number of fish, different fish species inhabit the water. If the dam is built all of the fish habitat will be destroyed by the projects of James Bay II. We will be unable to tell where the river flows once the reservoirs have been made.
The same process applies to the river we reside on. Lake Trout did not inhabit the surrounding lakes. We were unable to catch it until we portaged to the inner fresh water lakes. As we approached the Lake Bienville area the species were in great numbers. All of this will be lost once the project commences.
A Naskapi told me this story, I will retell it to you. Years ago, when the whiteman made a manmade lake in our area... in doing so, one of the rivers which flows into our area was diverted. When this occurred all of the fish habitat were destroyed. Even though the river flows again, not one fish species can be found in the river. At one of the fishing expeditions sports fishermen were taken to fish in this area. The whitemen were mesmerized by the whole adventure. They were told what had happened. They did not realize what had happened until they were told of the consequences. This will happen once the dams have been built.
I have heard that the same situation applies to the Mistisipi BIG RIVER area east of Lake Bienville. The land was flooded and erosion took place. Fish habitat was destroyed. The water is contaminated. Only the uncontaminated lakes will be able to sustain the fish habitat.
The way the lakes are depicted in this book is that some of the lakes will be drained into one reservoir which will make the river strong.
Even if all these lakes are drained into one big lake and the river is not touched at all, there would still be a lot of damage to many living things. Even if only the river is made higher level than it is and they do not touch any of the lakes, the same thing would happen. Many things would be lost, like the good net fishing places and all the other places that EEYOU hold in high regard. There is no way this project will not have a high impact on all these aspects of this land that EEYOU know about. I do not see it myself where this project will not have great impact on everything.
Even if only the lakes are drained, many things will be destroyed and the same goes if only the river is touched in this project.
That is the reason why I am talking to you about some things I have known personally mixed with stories that I have heard and I see some of these things with my own eyes and other I believe to be true. But only the WAMISTIKUSIU will not believe these things if they do not want to because they have not seen these things with their own eyes.
In the past, the people hardly got sick. All their medicine came from the land and the animals. They didn't even take one pill of aspirin. Today, when we go out for even two months, we are given a lot of white medicine. The traditional medicine is still out there. When I get sick, I try very hard to use what my grand-father used when he got sick. Even if there is white medicine today. I think that the traditional medicine is stronger than the white medicine. Everything is there out in the land. Everything needed to cure what ails one, the Creator also gave this to us. Both the Cree and Inuit were given the same thing. The Inuit also got medicine from the land.
There is something I have to say. We keep repeating that we don't want the land destroyed because it has provided for us in so many ways. Only the native people know what is really going to happen. They have lived out here for thousands of years. We got many things from the land, even medicine. We went out to the land for medicine, same way a person goes to the clinic for medication. The native people know where and how to get these medicinal plants. They know how to use them and how to respect them. Like everything else, you have to respect it. I have seen traditional medicine used many times in my lifetime.
I have seen people who could no longer stand up get well from traditional medicine. We needed these plants and other medicines to keep us healthy because there were no doctors at that time. I have used these medicines myself and I feel even strongly about the need to stop this madness. The Creator really took care of us, he gave us a land base and even medicines to cure us when we are sick. All that was Created for us will be destroyed.
When my grand-daughter got an infection in her mouth, I used ooshge-bouk (smaller than Labrador tea) to cure her. The clinic told us that she would be in pain for about 14 days. When I gave her this medication, it was gone in a few days. This plant only grows in Chisasibi or very far inland in Whapmagoostui. To use it, it has to be boiled and either used just as a rub or can be a small drink (one teaspoon).
Even the Anglican minister in town knows about these plants. He has heard how the Cree use it to cure colds. When he gets a cold, he usually asks me to boil the herbs so he can drink them. He seems to trust these more than the medication given at the clinic. He has said that they help him get better faster than the medication given at the clinic.
One of the many things that will be affected is the medicine of the Cree that is present in various trees, willows, flowers and berries. I have seen this in my life, where a person is near death and is saved by traditional medicine of the Cree.
I have seen many people use the wageenakin (tamarack) to cure many illness. It has also been used to alleviate pain from accidents with axes and knives. The Cree hold this tree to be of great importance. That is why there will be so much that will be destroyed. I also have seen people use the willows and labrador tea for medicine. I don't know what will happen to the people when this happens. But I do know that if the Cree were to destroy one of the medicines or tools of the whiteman, that person would surely receive a harsh word or two. If the project goes through, there will be a lot of traditional medicine that will be lost.
When the animals are also killed by the flood, then there will be more medicine that will be lost again. The Cree got medicine from many animals. This is why we believe that there will be a lot that will be destroyed.
There is even medicine in the rocks. The rocks used are different. The most medicinal rock is the black rock. It is called Eeyipsko. If it is found in the water, then it is considered to have more healing powers. I have seen many people use this. It is certain that these healing stones will be forever lost if they are destroyed. Even if a person looks for it after the flood, the healing powers of the stones will be much different. These stones kept the bodies healthy and cured illnesses.
Everything is important even the willow branches. There are always animals that really like to eat it but the Cree use it for medicinal purposes. This is especially true of miskumisiy (red willow). The Cree held it to be of great importance for medicinal purposes. They are boiled and some people just chew it, if they don't want to boil it. The juice from miskumisiy helps the sore throat. That is what I know about it because I have used it, too. It is used for the throat and for colds. It was best for coughing due to bad colds.
I have already talked about two things, the tree and the miskumisiy. The beaver likes to eat it but the Cree use it for medicinal purposes. The other medicinal plants used by the Cree is also known by animals. When the Caribou gets hit, he eats the we-she-gee-book (Labrador tea) and the whiskeychan-mi-yabakoon (black lichen on dead branches) of the tree. Even if he is bleeding a lot inside, it takes very little time for him to recover. All I can say is that I have never seen the Cree use the whiskeychan-mi-ya-ba koon for medicinal purposes.
As for the other medicine, all are very important, especially the we-she-gee-book (Labrador tea). Even the ntuhuun (refers to the caribou) which I am talking about, knows this plant for its medicinal powers. But it is said that a person cannot use both, modern medicine and this wee-she-gee-bouk at the same time. It is also said that the wee-she-gee-bouk is considered to be too potent for a child to use. It is also said that there can only be one use for them, if a person is boiling them for a drink, then they cannot use it as a compression. This is how I knew about their potency and their strong medicinal powers. When I stop to think about the magnitude of growth of the wee-she-gee-bouk, I realize they grow all over, on top of the hills, in the deep forest, they literally grow all over.
The other thing that will be greatly affected will be the Cree traditional medicines, medicines that the Cree have always used to cure illnesses before the arrival of the whiteman. Even before any whiteman medicine was available, the Cree have learned to use what was provided on the earth by the Creator as medicine. Cree were able to heal illnesses and all kinds of accidents without whiteman medicine. Cree found many things that they could use that was provided on earth. Such things were used to heal even a very very sick person. Such as the "weesheecheebuk" which was used for many different illnesses. Sometimes these were the only thing that was used, usually after three doses the illness started to disappear. The other thing was the "waachinaakin" that was used for many different situations. When the water are contaminated these "waachinaakin" will be greatly affected and many of the "weeesheecheebuk" will be destroyed. This is where the Cree obtained medicine when they wanted to cure someone. The other thing was the 'heenee" this cured a person many times too, as well as the "Shhchee" which was also used on the baby. It was also very useful when it was used as medicine. The "Yakao" was also often used on a sick person. The "Sheenee" that was taken from under water was the best for medical purposes. Most of the things I mentioned that were used for medical purpose will be greatly affected, it will be as if things that Cree used as medicine are being destroyed, once our land has been destroyed. Many of the things that Cree used to help themselves will be destroyed.
Even today, the Cree use many of these medicines, when they discover that whiteman medicine does not work. When traditional medicine does not work, they know that a person is really sick.
These are the things that many people talk about, especially the elders. They know when Cree medicine was used that it really helped a sick person. This is another thing that we remember when start to think about the many different things on the land, out in the bush as people who live out in the bush all the time.
Everything will feel the impact of the devastation of their feeding and spawning grounds, especially the fish. The four-legged animals will be homeless and will wander around in a strange but somewhat familiar territory. They will no longer know the exact location to go in search for their food.
There were seasons when the game was scarce. My grandfather told me that it was believed that the game went into the water. But when it came back again, the land was in a very poor state. It was as if the land was barren. When the flood comes, it will be worse. Everything that is lost to the water will not come back again. They will be lost forever, just like the rest of the flooded area. No new life will begin. This time, it will not be a natural process.
I will now talk about my concerns for another animal and that is the bear. The bear will and can make its winter den in rocky areas. It will and can make its den inside rock cliffs. But it prefers to make its winter den under mounds of earth. It is said that when the bear makes its den in rock cliffs. its den is not warm. As it is well known that the exposed rocks are very cold during the coldest time of the year. It is for this reason that its den will not be as warm inside a rocky areas. But if its den is located inside a mound of earth, it will be warm. It also prefers the smaller mounds of earth to build its den. It likes it best there. when it can find such a spot, its den will certainly be warm, it is said. If it makes its den inside a bigger mound of earth and if it not will covered by the snow, it will be cold. The small mounds of earth are best for it because the snow will not be blown off it during the cold winter. The snow does not blow off of there during the coldest part of the year. The snow is always thick on the smaller mounds of earth in the dead of winter. That is why its den is very warm, especially if had dug deep into the earth. When it is making its burrow and is satisfied with the length of the entrance, it will now dig where it will sit. It will make a deep dent where it will sit and will place dry vegetation over the dent to make a mate for itself to sit lay on. It will place the willows and branches all around the inside of its den and will make itself a mattress out of these materials. That is what will do. It will but not always close the entrance of its den from the inside. In this way, its den is much warmer inside. The snow around the entrance of its den will be melting from its own heat. I know this because I have found a bear in its den during the winter time. I know exactly how its makes its den by the way it looks when I find the bear in its den. I know what the area looks like where it can usually be found. It will not always use tree branches, instead use the Labrador tea stems and other kinds of vegetation including some grasses. It will use this to lay/sleep on inside its winter den. It will make its den very warm and cozy. When it goes out of its den, when it is time to go out in the spring, it will drag out the things it slept on. When it does this, it means that it will want to use this den again even if not that year but will come back for it the next year. It will come back to it because it had liked it and had found it to be a warm place to spend the winter. If it likes where it had been one year, it will keep going back to the same den if it had found it to be warm and comfortable. If another bear finds this den first, it will occupy it. It happens that other bears will find the area where there these mounds of earth and find an already made den. The first bear to get to the already made den will enter it and stay there for the winter. I know for certain that these kinds of areas where the bears come year after year will be destroyed once the flooding starts, where it had found a good place to spend the winter over the years. The bear will have the same fate as the beaver where their habitats will be completely destroyed by the flooding of the land. The bear will lose its habitats.
I have seen a bear to make its den inside the roots of a fallen tree. There is a hollow under after the roost have lifted off of the ground. This kind of a place must still be important to the porcupine. Also I have seen a bear, many times, inhabiting such a place. Even if the mound is small, it is a good place to dig out...
These are the types of places that I know of where these animals like to inhabit. There are other animals that makes their burrows/dens for the winter time. These other animals have dens to retreat, for instance, the fox, marten, mink, squirrel, weasel and otter. They have places to stay during the winter. Perhaps I will have time to talk about these other animals and what I know of their habits and habitats.
All the four-legged animals and those that depend on the water will be affected. Those animals that have dens such as the black bear, fox, groundhog will be affected because the water levels will begin to rise and move into their dens. These animals will not be able to live in their dens. The fox and the groundhog give fish to their offspring in their dens. The black bear stays in the den during the winter because he cannot stay outside in winter. He stays in the den all winter and only leaves the den in the summer time when he is able to wander around. But both the fox and groundhog have to have their young born in their dens, they will suffer the most when they are not able to stay in their dens to raise their young, once water levels rise and go into their dens.
What will happen to the beaver when the flooding begins? When the flooding begins, it will have to built it's lodge almost on top of which were once high mountains. If this happens they will not have the WIISKITIMWII to eat. The small/lakes/ponds do not have WIISKITIMWII in them. It is very evident when there are WIISKITIMWII present in a lake because the WIISKITIMWII are attached to the plants called WISCHITAASIUCH [water plant]. When there are plenty of WISCHITAASIUCH growing in one place, then the WISKITIMWIICH are plenty under the mud. I believe that the beaver would not be able to any nearby WIISKITIMWIIH if it erected it's lodge near mountain tops. The other thing I know about the beaver is that if the beaver eats the same thing for three nights, it is tired of it already. How I know this, is because, when a beaver is being chased and it goes a long way from it's lodge, if it's lodge had been destroyed. When it knows that it's lodge has been destroyed, it will swim away from that place. It goes far away. Sometimes, it happens that it has a hard time to go back to where he had come far especially if it has checked it's tunnels had been destroyed. Sometimes, one tunnel might not be broken and other times it will happen that the beaver would make it's lodge somewhere far away. It will come back to get it's food from it's old place. Sometimes, it can only take one piece of willow and then it goes back to it's new home. I have known some beaver to drown because it had to rescue this certain kind of food from that distance. In the winter time, all the willows are frozen that are standing near the water. All of the willows are frozen. It has no other way of getting this kind of food. Even if the willows are standing along the pond's edge, it has no way of getting and eating the at the frozen willows. It is for this reason why the beaver has to retrieve some of it's food from the it's old home even if it's food is very far from it's new home. Sometimes, the beaver drowns when it is on this kind of mission to absolutely rescue some of it's food. The beaver is like us, if we eat the same food for three days, we do not feel all that well. All animals are like that. when an animal's diet is varied, it will crave some kinds of it's food [if not eaten in many days). The beaver is one animal that I know of who will do this, try to rescue one kind of it's food against all odds. It does not like to eat only one kind of food for long time. It will get skinny rapidly if does not have the proper kind of food that it likes and because it does not have a proper home and if it is not dry where it lives. If it lives like this for three nights, it will already be visible that it is loosing it's fat reserves even it had been quite fat. It's fat looks all red because it is always in cold water even while it is eating. In the spring time, the beaver starts to get skinny quite rapidly. It gets skinny fast because it is in the cold water more often. Now, what will the beaver look like if it's habitat is flooded out? The first thing the beaver does is make a den inside a mound of earth. It makes a den inside the mound of earth. Having done this, it places sticks and willows over it or just the sticks that are underwater. Having d6ne this, it will now place mud over it. Then this construction starts to harden and continues to place/mix sticks [MISTIKUH) over it and uses rocks along with the sticks with this construction. It does this, why it places the sticks over it first is because the entrance to it's den does not close over with the weight of the other building materials. That is why it builds like that. The older beaver likes to put larger sticks over the entrance first and also uses bigger sticks with it's construction. That is why it does like that. It gets all the mud it uses that is submerged in the water. If the beaver wants to build it's den where there is only white moss near the mountain tops or there is only rocky areas where it will be dry, he might not find mud to use to build it's den. The mud is very warm for it's construction. Even if it uses the other kinds vegetation to build his den, it always mixes it with mud. After the pond freezes, the beaver comes out, it will add snow and ice mixed with mud over it's den which make it's very hard. It does this because it wants to make it's den very warm for the duration of the winter. The beaver makes sure that the opening to it's den leads into the deeper waters. It does this so that the opening to it's den will not freeze over even if the pond itself is thickly frozen over. It does happen sometimes that if the beaver did not make the entrance to its den deeper in the water, the entrance will freeze over. When this happens, it can not use its lodge. His lodge will be very cold. Where its food is stored, it makes a hallow at the bottom of the pond. It makes this area very deep, even if the stored willows are sticking out of the water. It tries to store its cut willows/food deep in the water. That is what it tries to do. The willows that are deep in the water do not freeze onto the ice. It leaves the one on top of the water alone even if the top ones are sticking out of the water. During the winter, it eats the one that are stored deep in the water. If the beaver can not store its food deep in the water, and most of its food is frozen at the top the pile and if its den is cold, it will tend to try to stay its tunnel. Sometimes, it does not survive when this happens. It dies. Sometimes, it will happen that it will come out of its den and onto the ice all year round especially if it can not get at its stored food. It tries to store all kinds of willows in its stash. As I had mentioned earlier, the beaver eats all kinds of willows and it also will store the WISKITIMWII in its stockpile even if it can get at the WISKITIMWII easily during the winter. It will gather and eat the WISKITIMWII during the winter. These are the habits of the beaver.
The beaver checks its dam every day. It knows when its dam is becoming loose or some of it gone, it knows right away and it will fix it right away. I believe this habit of the beaver because I have experienced it myself. Once I was anxious for the beaver to show up. I let loose some of the poles on its dam. When detects right away that the water in the pond was getting low and it showed up right away even if it was not the time of day for it to show. It swam straight to its dam. When it comes near the place where I am laying in wait for it, it dives into the water. When it surfaces, it has mud in its paws. It will inspect exactly where the breakage on the dam is. It will place the mud where the breakage in the dam is. If I hunt beaver this way and I have killed the first one to surface, the other beaver knows that water level in the pond is still getting low, it will surface. It will do the same thing. It will swim straight to the dam. When it comes close to the dam, it will dive and bring up what it will use to repair the broken dam.
That is how I know that the flooding of the land will not be good for the beaver, too. I know that when the gates of the man-made dams are open, the water level gets low. when this happens, it will happen that where the beaver are will be without water. I have heard this happening to beaver that when the water level goes down, and if the water level does not go up pretty soon, their lodge entrance will freeze over and their food storage in the water will be dry. It happens that they will go on land and look for where there is water. The beaver can not stay on land for a very long time because its feet and its tail will freeze first. Its paws will freeze, too. It can not stay on land for a long time during the cold time of the winter. It will look for water because it was made in such a way for it to be in the water. It was not made to be on land. That is why it is not good for it to be on land especially during the water time. Even if it goes out for a short while, it will not be able to move in a short while because of the cold. I have seen a beaver drag a trap where it was caught on top of the ice and try to get out of it. It was soon unable to move because its feet, tail and paws were frozen stiff in a very short while. It will happen sometimes that the beaver will come on top of the land if its lodge and tunnels are blocked when it is being hunted. Sometimes, it would be found on land where it had frozen because all its tunnels had been destroyed and could not stay in the water indefinitely. I know I am telling the truth when I say that it is not good for the beaver to stay on top of the land during the cold part of the year. That is one kind of animal that I know of which is gravely in danger when it can not get access to it's dry home via water during the cold part of the year. The same thing happens to the muskrat. It can not stay on land during the winter time. But these two kinds of animals can stay out longer on land during the spring time. All the animals that depend on the water for their habitat does like to stay out on the land when the spring animals. That is one kind of animal, the beaver from what I have been telling you to be severely affected in many ways when the flooding comes even if tries to stay at the edges of the reservoir.
It will have a hard time to find it's food because the vegetation closest to its access will not be its food and will not find the WISKITIMWII, for example... The WISKITIMWII is one of the beavers' favorite foods. In the summer time, one can many of the WISKITIMWII flooding on the water in the beaver's pond. Even during the winter, the beaver eats the WISKITIMWII all the time. It does not like it when it does not eat the WISKITIMWII even for a short period of time. The beaver also likes to be living a lake/pond where there are a lot willows and plenty of WISKITIMWII around. This kind of a lake where there a lot of willows around it is called, ANIIPISKAACH. It is this kind of lake that the beavers like to inhabit. It is certain that the beavers can be found in this kind of lake every year and will inhabit it for many years.
The beaver also likes a lake/pond where it is easy to make many tunnels around the lake. The beavers will reuse these tunnels over the years. If the lake has a winding shore-line and has high banks, the beaver likes to make only a den by burrowing into the bank of the shore-line and not make a lodge. It will live in this burrow instead of a lodge. It still likes to live in this kind of a burrow on the river bank if there are plenty of willows and WISKITIMWIICH in this lake. If a beaver wants to make a lodge near the mountain tops [after the flooding], if we reflect on this awhile, I believe that the beaver will have a hard time to make tunnels in this kind of area especially if it is rocky. If the lake/pond where the beaver is, has a rocky shore-line, the beaver can not make its tunnels. It can not make its tunnels deep with water. Even it does go ahead and makes its tunnels/burrows before it is cold, its tunnels are dry and there is no water in its tunnels. It can not use these tunnels. As I have mentioned before, the same thing could happen to its lodge. When this happens, the beaver starts to be affected by the cold. The beavers get very skinny rapidly if the pond/lake is very rocky. It does not do much good even if they make the water level high in the pond/lake, if the lake was rocky to start with. Their tunnels/burrows will have no water it them because their tunnels and/ or lodge would not have much water in them once the freeze up has happened. The beaver likes lakes/ponds that are not rocky and prefer lakes that are muddy. It is said that this kind of a small lake tends to have warmer water, a lake with no rocks in it. Especially if this lake almost looks like a MISCHAAKW SAAKIIKINS [peat/swamp lake]. When a lake is like this, muddy and has soft bottom with other vegetation growth, the WISKITIMWII grow in abundance in this type of a lake. The beaver likes this type of a lake best and it can make its tunnel deeper into the earth. The tunnel leading to its lodge can be made deep in the water. When it can construct its tunnel this way, it will not freeze up and will not be cold if it makes its lodge and tunnel in this way. I am just telling you what I know about the beaver and what it likes best in its habits. I can see it for myself that [if after the flooding] if a beaver could construct its lodge near or on the tops which were once mountain rocky tops will not have enough building materials which it is used, I am certain that the beaver would die of the cold. The tops of mountains and rocky hills will be the only ones that will be seen in some areas where the flooding will take place. In this way, the only place the beaver can make its lodge on top of these once mountain top [which will look like islands]. Where would the beaver get its foodstuffs that will be easily accessible for it? That is how I know that the flooding will severely affect the beaver.
Every type of species will be affected not even those that depend on the waters will be spared. The beaver and otter will suffer. They depend on the waters and it will be the water that will make them suffer. The beaver builds a beaver house, but he also makes other places where he stays not just in the beaver house. He makes dens into the dry land where he spends time too. When the water levels begin to rise, the beaver will not be able to stay in the places he usually stays because he will attempt to escape the high water. The tallymen that depend on the beaver will no longer be able to find any beaver in the places where they have always hunted and trapped beaver, because the beaver will be gone. The beaver will attempt to escape the high water, although the beaver stays in the water a lot he will try to escape the high level of water. The place the beaver usually stays will be destroyed, he will not be able to stay there anymore. The area where the beaver has always prepared his home will be destroyed.
For example, the otter has a special place where it likes to come out of the water from and will take its prey to consume on that spot. It will eat there. These places are called UNCHIKWAAMAAUH. Sometimes, the otter will make its den in these places. The otter stays there in the winter time. If it cannot make a tunnel and den in these places, it will make its den in the snow. If it makes its den in the snow, it will have boughs and NIPISIISH on the floor of its den. It is bad for all animals to sit on the snow for a long time. It will lose its fat reserves and be skinny fast if it gets too cold all the time. The cold affects the animals that way, too. All these NCHIKWAAMAAU will all be lost.
How much of the habitats of all the animals will be lost once the flooding has taken place, during and after?
The mink also has its favorite places to make its den. The mink has special dens where its young will be born. The otter has those special dens, too, where its young will be born. These animals will come to the same dens to have their young over the years.
The muskrat has its tunnels/burrows, too. Some of its tunnels/burrows can be found in the ice but it only uses these in the winter time. It cannot stay in these dens in the ice all time during the winter time. It will only swim to these dens once in awhile. It is the burrows that are on land [on the river bank] that are much warmer and will stay there in the winter. The muskrat will never have its young born in the dens in the ice. It will have its young born in the burrows that are on the land. It will rear its young in those dens. Sometimes, the muskrat will have two litters of young in the summer time. It will rear its young in the dens that are on the land. When it starts to get warm, the muskrat will make a lodge. Its lodge will not be built for warmth. It will rear its young in this lodge during the hot weather in the summer.
The beaver will do the same thing. This kind of lodge build for summer living is called, UNIIPISCHICHAAU. The beaver likes to rear its young in such a lodge during the hotter months. That is where it nurtures its young. The beaver will not raise its young in the same lodge where he spend the winter especially if there is a summer lodge. In the summer lodge, it uses only the willows and sticks and does not use mud. In this way, the lodge will not be too uncomfortably hot.
The muskrat acts the same way. It will build a summer lodge which will not be too warm for the summer. It does not build the same lodge as it does for the winter. It does it this way because that is where it will nurture its young in the summer.
All the animals will do the same. They will not keep their young in the winter home because it will be too warm. When it gets too hot, they will keep their young in a place that is not too hot for them especially when they are very young.
The porcupine does the same thing. Most of all the animals act the same way. They will keep their young in a place where it is not too hot for them when the hot weather happens.
That is what I know about the muskrat, otter and the beaver. They will not rear their young in the winter home. The other animals whose young are born on dry land do not keep their young in a very warm place during the hot weather. Otherwise, the young animals would be too hot. I presume, the animals on the land will feel the heat and be uncomfortable when it is very hot in the summer.
All the animals will try to keep their young away from the mosquitoes which are abundant in the summer. The young animals are the same as a human child where they depend on their parents to keep the mosquitoes away. Long time ago, there was nothing in the way of insect repellent to keep the mosquitoes. When it happens that the mosquitoes got to a young child, the child would have bites all over its face. Sometimes, the child would not be able to open her/his eyes and would appear sick because of the mosquito bits. It happened sometimes that the bite will become infected. The animal [AUKAAN] will look after its young and makes sure that the mosquitoes do not get at it too much.
The fox also lives in a den. The fox will use its den many times over and have its young born there and stay there in the winter time. The fox will make its den in rolling hills/sparsely wooded sandy hills. It does not always make its dens in the mountains. The fox will have deliver its young in the dens. The fox dens will be lost to the flooding, also. There will be nothing left of them. If it should happen that there is no place to make another den nearby where it had lost its den, the fox will be in a pitiful and lamentable situation. The fox is one animal that likes to make its den in sandy areas. It will make its tunnel very long. The fox will eat anything that it can find.
I know the young-rearing habits and behaviors of the animals that I am familiar with that live in this area. I know the areas where they like to live best. I presume that these animals view their homes like we view our houses where they feel safe and secure. I presume they are very happy where they are in their dens once they had built them where they wanted because it is warm and safe. We can deduce this from our own experiences as man [EEYOU] when we have warm and secure dwellings, we are happy to be there. The animal is the same way. Imagine how poor they will be if all their homes all destroyed.
The otter will be affected the same way, the otter also makes dens under the water towards the dry land. He does not just wander around all the time. He also needs to make a den. The muskrat is the same way, he also makes dens underwater towards the dry land. He will also feel the impacts of the destruction. The muskrat and the otter will not be able to stay in the areas they usually occupy.
Every body of water will be affected. The rich spawning areas will be affected, the areas where there was an
abundant supply of fish will be gone. Even where Ntuhuun was plentiful will be affected. These are the things that concern us what about Hydro wants to do to our territory. If they go ahead with their plans, they will destroy so much life.
I will now talk about the fish. The fish has different places where they will spawn.
I will talk about the ATIKIMAAKUUCH [cisco?). I will talk about them. They spawn in fast moving waters or where there are small rapids where it is shallow. That is where they spawn/lay eggs. That is where the ATIKIMAAKW spawns during the fall. The other kind of spot where they spawn is on the shores of MINISKAAKUUCH [small islands] which have sandy shores and not too rocky. That is where the ATIKIMAAKUUCH like to spawn. It is certain that they will spawn for many years in the same spot. We cannot really know how many years the fish have spawned in one spot over the years. No one really knows how many years all the different kind of fish will spawn in on place over the years.
A person will know of fish spawning places which are in use for many years. As of today and while I was growing up, I knew of and have heard of places where the fish spawn. I might have known and heard of these spawning places, perhaps, before I twenty years old and today I am fifty-nine years, these spawning places are still used by the fish. The places/areas like these that the EEYOU of the past used to rely on for fishing are still reliable today as they were in the past. This year, I am still fishing in the same places that my father taught me where good fishing places which he had heard of himself and experienced and the places where the fish spawned. The EEYOU, over the years, would come to these places where the fish spawned to catch some. These places are known as NUTAAMUWAANAN. The places that are known to be good places for sitting up winter fish lines are known as KHSKHPH. There other places where it is very good for setting winter nets and these places are called PIKWAAIIPANAAN. All these places that I know of on the proposed flooded area will all be lost. All these places where the fish spawned, whether in AATIWAACHIIUSIICH or in around a MINSAAKUCH, will all be gone. Sometimes, the MINSAAKU will be visible out of the water and some MINSAAKU do not jut out of the water and sometimes is almost out of the water. That is where the ATIKIMAAKU will spawn. Therefore, if these places are way deep in the water, these fish cannot spawn there anymore.
The KUKIMAAS spawns in stony bottom shores. It will spawn in MINISTUKW and MINSAAKU stony/pebbly areas. These fish prefer to spawn on the west end of the MINISTUKW. That is where the KUKIMAAS usually spawns. As with the other places, the spawning areas of this fish will be lost in the flood.
The places where the fish that spawn in fast moving waters/rapids will be lost, too. The AIICHAAUCH like to lay their eggs/spawn in APAUSTIKUWICH [rapids) even if it is very shallow.
Sometimes, it is deceiving to think that only the big lakes will have some fish in it. Even a small lake will have all the varieties of fish in it, like the KUKIMAAS, AIICHAAUCH and ITIKIMAAKUCH. If an AIICHAAU is in this lake, it will be happy to spawn at the small outlet of the lake even if the stream is very small. That is where I used to see the AIICHAAUCH spawn in these types of places. When the fish spawn in these small streamed outlets, the fish's backs will stick out of the water as they spawn.
The reason why I know how these animals will be affected is... As it is well known, that all living creatures/animals [including man] are deeply affected if they do not eat one kind of the foods they are supposed to eat regularly for health purposes. The foodstuffs of these animals had already been determined by the Creator what kinds of food would be good for these animals when they were made to live in this environment. All the animals had been selected to survive in this environment and their food had been determined which will be good for them for their health that also will survive in this environment. When animal cannot eat one of the foods that he is supposed to eat, the animal does not feel very well. It does not feel very well even if it eats the other kinds of food.
It is very important for us to think deeply about these things. We must ponder about each animal and what kinds of changes it will face in all facets of its life. Some animals will die in the flooding. We all know that when someone does not eat food, they will start to look very skinny and sickly very rapidly whether the person can not take in food because of illness or another. The person looks very poor and sickly very fast.
This is what I know personally, that if the food of a creature is not good and if it can not find it, it will get skinny rapidly and finally it dies because it can not find its food. This is the reason why the EEYOU are saying that every kind of living thing must be studied in depth. Every kind of creature that lives in this environment must considered thoroughly and find out thoroughly and study the effects it will have on its live. Which of these creatures' food will be destroyed and find out thoroughly all other effects will have on its life when the flooding happens and landscape changes? Find out every creatures' loss of habitat once this takes place and where were the best areas for each creature/animal used to inhabit that will lost in the flooding. If the AUKAAN's [animals'/creatures'] habitat is destroyed, it will be made homeless and impoverished when his food will be destroyed along with everything else.
I have heard some observations that an EEYOU from Chisasibi had made when the dams where built in their territory and one of the EEYOU told me some stories personally. He had seen that all the animals are affected by the changes the dams had brought, even the ptarmigan and the rabbit. The food of the ptarmigan and the rabbit are affected by the recent changes. Some ptarmigan had been found that have died for no known reason.
The caribou behaves like a human being, When a human being finds an abundance of food that they enjoy, they continue to come back to that place where they found that particular food. The caribou is the same way. They continue to come back to the areas where they found abundance of food that they like to eat. Once the water starts to rise, that food that the caribou depended on will disappear under water. The feeding areas will also be affected by the clearance of area where the roads are going to be and where the campsites are going to be located. All these activities will destroy the areas where the caribou today enjoy their food. For the caribou, it will be like as if they don't know where to look for food anymore, they won't be able to find it where there is abundance of it today. And in this way they will be very much affected by the project. All other animals that depend on plants that grow on the land today will also be affected like the caribou. They'll be searching for food which will be under water and they will no longer be able to enjoy staying in areas that they presently enjoy staying.
I will add something to what I have said concerning the bear. One of the mountains I know of, there are many berries growing there. Sometimes, there is only one mountain that will have berries growing on it abundantly. There are many black and blue berries growing on it all over the place. The bear likes to eat these berries. When the bear finds such a mountain during the berry growing season, the bear will not move from that mountain. It will not go far from the mountain. It will keep on going back to this mountain while the berries are still there. When the all the berries have gone, sometimes, it will find a place to stay for the winter. It could happen that a mountain like this, with abundance of berries growing on it,... It is not just the big and high mountains that have abundance of berries growing on them. I am not just talking about those. Usually, the black berries can be found growing in abundance in wooded areas. The blue berries will grow in other areas, too. The blue berries will grow where they can even if the areas are not mountainous. Not all blue berries grow in mountainous areas.
I presume that Hydro might deduce that the berries only grow in mountainous areas abundantly because the berries are more visible when they grow in these areas. It will not think about the other areas where the berries can and will grow abundantly. It is not only in mountainous areas where the berries can grow. There is a kind of area, a growth of moss where both types of berries can and will grow, mainly the blue berries and black berries. There is another type of berry we call, IIYIMINH [type of blue berry] which the bear loves to eat very much. These types of berries grew almost anywhere out in the wooded areas especially in new growth forests or newly burnt out areas. These type of berries [IIYIMINH] will start growing early in the burnt out areas. There is another type of berry that grows in these newly burnt areas which are called NCHIKUUMINH. It is also a type of a blue berry. These berries also look different from the ones we call IIYIMINH. The otter eats these berries we call NCHIKUUMINH [otter berries]. All these kinds of berries I am talking about, not all of them can grow in mountainous areas. Some of these berries can only be found on the ground of sparsely wooded areas will grow on mounds of earth. The Hydro might think that it does not matter about flooding these kinds of areas because there are no berries growing there which is food for the bear and the only place where the berries eaten by the bear on mountainous areas. This will not be true because that is not the only place where the berries grow. The food of the bear will be lost to the flood including the otter. I know of many kinds of birds who eat these berries. The caribou eats some berries. There are berries that are called ITUKUMINH [caribou berries]. The caribou eats these berries. I have talked about mainly about three type of berries. There are other berries that are eaten by the bear. These berries are red. They look something like the berries we call WIISCHIMINH. There other berries that grow on some willows and they are red in color. The bear also eats those berries. There are other berries that look almost like a SIKUTAAU [bakeapple). These also grow on willows. The bear will all these kinds of berries even those that grow on NIIPISIICH.
There is another thing that the bear will a lot of and it will also eat the grasses. It also eats these things that grow on NIPISICH KAWASAPAYASKUCH KA CHIKIMUUCH [attached or grew on this certain type of willow]. These things look furry. These are called WAAPHSHUSIICH [baby rabbits (in other words, pussy willows?}]. The bear likes to eat those, too. These buds grow in the spring. When it flowers start growing, these buds burst open, these WAAPHSHUSIICH. They can be seen from afar. The bear eats them a lot when these plants are at this stage of growth. There many of these budding plants that will grow at once in the spring. I have seen those here in Whapmagoostui, too. The bear will stay in one place a long time when it finds these budding plants.
The bear also likes to the ants which it will find under fallen [rotting] logs and under rocks. It also knows that there are ants under a still standing tree but is actually dead. It will dig out the base of the rotting tree and get at the ants that way. There are many things that the bear eats.
The berries that I have mentioned that grow on willows, you must have seen them, they look kind of furry. These berries are called UPIWAAUUMINH. The ones I told that looked something like SIKUTAAU [baked-apple berry), these also can be found on NIPISICH [willows). These berries are called YUUSKINCH. All these berries, the bear eats.
It the same for the fish. Their food is in the water, at the bottom of the lakes. In areas where there has been no moss or lichen in the water, all the animals will feel the affect immediately. For example, if an animal, whose primary food source came from the water, was left on the top of a hill and left there to fend for itself. Even if there was water all around, the animals would find it difficult to find food. This animal could be a beaver or a fish. They would find it very difficult and just as it would be difficult to determine what the exact impact would be.
There is another area that I think about, that I'm very concerned about, which is a couple of miles up the river, that area is the place where we used to camp and hunt geese. That was their feeding area and once the project goes ahead, the food that the geese came for will all be gone. They will continue to come there but they will find no food and they too will be greatly affected by the project.
It would not be at all fair to any living species which lives off the land for the land to be flooded by the hydro-electric power dams. All wildlife habitats will be altered one way or another. I want to give you an example of what happens when wildlife is left alone to breed, raise its young and sustain its own survival. Years ago, the beaver was plentiful in the vicinity of my trapline. In contemporary times, its population is almost extinct because of the lack of what it feeds on. In order for its food to grow, it has traveled elsewhere to survive, however it will come back once its feeding grounds can sustain its own survival. The animal knows when to come back, when its feeding ground can meet its own needs for survival. That's how Mother Nature works!
Also, the place which were inhabited by the porcupine. There were only some certain places where porcupine could be found. It was not found in many areas. The porcupine has not been seen at least twenty years. But today, since two years now, it is starting to come back and seems to be multiplying. It is thought that in the future it will become numerous again.
The marten is the same way. It was plentiful in the past. It has been quite some time that the marten was not seen much but today the marten making a comeback. It is starting to get numerous. It also can be found here in Whapmagoostui. It is more numerous at IPISIKIMISH, appears to be more numerous there, the marten. I know that the WAMISTIKUSIU knows that, all these kinds of animals had gone back into the water, had retreated into the water and it is starting to come back on land again, including the caribou.
In conclusion, when the dams are built, we will have to travel long distances to hunt because big and small game will be scarce because of the construction process. The construction process will scare animals away. Most species are afraid of loud noises, they prefer peaceful environments to inhabit. Where will we go to hunt for ourselves when our community will be surrounded by water