Arts & Récits Autochtones - The Great Trading Expedition

The Great Trading Expedition

2014 - Lauréat de récits

I don’t remember my dream after that and I don’t think I want to know what happens too. I don’t know how to tell my father about this dream, and I don’t want to trouble my mother. I shouldn’t be fretting over dreams, right? It was hopefully just a bad dream.

Lisez l’histoire de Marti McKay

Marti McKay

Camperville, MB
Pine Creek First Nation
Âge 16

Une note d'auteur

(compiled orally as a group) We as a group of students in our school are submitting creative writing inspired by topics chosen from suggested themes provided by the Native Studies teacher by the Native Studies teacher, Ms. Anne Schuster. We were invited to explore our experiences as well as new research to apply to topics such as pair bonding, relationships from a First Nations perspective, exploring the use of our language as we are learning it in contemporary circumstances, or the development of new legends based on old values and teachings. We found this to be a very interesting and creative way to connect with personal family teachings, however simple or complex. Our stories became exactly that… very personal writing created with passion and cultural connection.

I chose a historical theme because I found it to be an extreme challenge.
I wanted to explore a strong cultural connection with a father I never had.
I used research as a resource for information on what life was like in Manitoba many generations ago. It was a good way to connect with ancestors
and traditions that still have value today.

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The Great Trading Expedition

Diary of a Young Métis Girl

We’ve been on this rough, rough road for what feels like hours. I know that it’s barely been an hour since we left home, but the immense fog and the shadows of trees are messing with my mind. If I put my hand in front of myself,  I can barely see it.  The dirt and rocks are hurting my feet. Whenever I ask my father if we’re there yet he tells me alone in Ojibwe. He doesn’t like it when I speak in English, but it’s the first language I learned because my mother, who is Metis, taught me English. Even now I’m writing in English in this journal my father gave me as a present. I’m fluent in English, I can read, write, and speak it well. Because I live with my father now, he’s teaching me Ojibwe. I can understand some words and follow a small conversation. I can’t speak it, however. The foreign words feel strange against my lips and they get caught in my throat.

We’re walking to see someone he knows well, my father said this morning. He said he’s going to teach me new words in Ojibwe and show me how his people get supplies, like pots and better weaponry. He told me it’s a long walk from our home to his friends’ home, but I asked for a break because I was tired and had just woke up. When he woke me up this morning he handed me this black, leather bound book. It’s what I’m writing in right now. My father said that we could rest awhile, but now we have to walk again. He wants to get to his friend’s house before it gets too late in the morning. He doesn’t want this trip to last too long because he knows my mother will want to spend some time with me before she has to leave. I don’t know where she’s going, but she’s leaving after twelve days have passed. My father says we will get to the trading post and make it back home with time to spare. I don’t know much about where we’re going except that we’re going south and east.

We arrived at my father’s friend’s house, and he had a horse attached to a cart for us. Inside the cart were boxes. I looked into one and there were beaver pelt s from the bottom to the brim of the box. My father said that he’s trading with someone whose Ojibwe is poor, so I can help and translate for them. I’m nervous about this but my father reassured me that I’ll do fine. We’re sitting in the cart now. My father is holding onto ropes tied around the horse. He says that with the rope he can tell the horse to speed up or slow down or stop. I don’t like seeing the poor animal all tied up. He laughed when I told him this, though. He said that the Creator made this horse to serve us, but I don’t want it to. It’s so beautiful, with orange brown coat and white spots around its middle that stretch into the rest of its body.

My father points at things on the ground and in different directions and telling me stories of animals he’s hunted. He speaks slowly so I can understand the longer words better. One would think because we speak different languages our travel would be uncomfortable, but it’s the opposite. He’s so loving towards me, and he’s funny. When I accidentally say a wrong word he laughs and corrects me. I don’t feel too embarrassed when I get complicated words wrong, but when he tells me what I said in Ojibwe, sometimes my face gets really hot. I’m glad no one else is here with my father and me.

My father said the weather is turning out to be really good. Now it’s later in the day and we’re still using the horse and cart. The sky has some clouds and the sun is warming my body. There’s little wind. We left the forest and are in a barren, flat place. There are trees behind and around us, but we’re walking alongside them. My father says that there are roads the more south we go, so there’s no need for us to travel in the forest. The sound of birds in the distance and the sound of our wheels turning against the dirt are making me tired. I remember I didn’t have that good of a sleep last night. In my dream, mother, father and I were walking in the bush and we were berry picking, when all of a sudden a bear came and grabbed mother by the waist and threw her aside. Father didn’t have any weapons so he pushed me behind him. I don’t remember my dream after that and I don’t think I want to know what happens too. I don’t know how to tell my father about this dream, and I don’t want to trouble my mother. I shouldn’t be fretting over dreams, right? It was hopefully just a bad dream.

Father says he hopes to get warmer clothing for us. I nod because the green color on the leaves is fading to orange, and the wind is becoming colder. He tells me he wants to go fishing with mother and me before she has to leave. I’ve only been fishing with father and mother at the same time once when I was really young. It would be fun for us to spend time together as a family. My father is telling me words for fish and water in Ojibwe, but I’m writing in here instead! Let’s see how long it takes for him to notice I’m not paying attention…

He noticed! He laughed and asked me why I’m not paying attention. I told him that I’m just joking around and that I know the words already. He made me repeat them back to him over and over, but he had a warm smile as he heard me speak Ojibwe. What he told me next makes my eyes water. He told me he loved me in English. I didn’t even know he could speak English! When I asked him about it, he said that he had to learn so he could talk to my mother. They really love each other, it makes me smile. I told him I loved him in Ojibwe and I thought he was going to cry. He didn’t teach me how to say it, and when I asked why he teased me, saying he didn’t want me to shout it out at boys. Honestly, I have no interest in looking for a husband. I want to stay with my father and hunt beside him. I haven’t told him any of this though. I want to tell my mother first and hear her thoughts about it before I talk to my father.

It’s the next day, and it’s getting colder. It’s early in the morning and the sun is still out, but the wind is blowing strong. Thankfully my father foresaw these events and packed us these thick jackets, although it’s hard for me to write in this journal with it on. The coat overs most of my thighs, so I’m grateful for that. I hope my father isn’t too cold because his jacket only goes up to his waist. Father tells me that we’re almost there. Last night we slept in the cart because it would take too long to go into the woods and set up a tipi. I didn’t mind, but my father had to watch the boxes in case someone came by and took them. He woke me up once and told me to wake him up after a while and to wake him up if someone came near. Luckily there wasn’t anyone in sight. It made me slightly lonely, and I wished for someone to pass by so I had someone to talk to, but no one passed. I almost fell asleep, but thankfully my father woke up and said I could go back to bed.

Father says we’re almost there. In the distance I can see a building. I will not lie I’m excited to see what kind of people live there. I asked my father if beaver pelts are the only things we’re giving them, and he said no. He pointed towards another box and said I could look through it. I opened the box and saw a lot of fur! I asked him what it was as I started taking it out of the box. He told me to be careful, that the robes were made from bison his people hunted. I wanted to try it on but it would have pooled around my legs and get dirty from the cart. I asked father, once, if I will continue growing. He kissed my forehead and told me I will never stop learning, but my height was almost settled in. I don’t want to be so short, I told him. I want to stand tall and for everyone to have immense respect for me. He smiled and told me I can do all that and still be my size. It made me feel better, but I still wish I wasn’t so short. As I remembered this conversation, I was opening another box. Inside were sharp looking objects. My father called them arrowheads, I called them dangerous. I closed the boxes and grow more and more excited as we approach the trading post.

I don’t know how long we’re going to stay here; my father is trading with some people. Other residents are staring at me when they think I can’t see them. I’m kind of scared, but my father says whenever I’m scared I should stare whatever’s scaring me in the face. But I don’t want to look at these people, they make me feel uncomfortable. I think they’re staring at me because my father has dark, beautiful skin and I have lighter, paler skin. I wish we would leave now. I think my father knew this would happen. I wish I could be mad at him, but I think I know why he took me here. Instead of having to grow up hiding from my Ojibwe identity, I should embrace it. So I don’t show how uncomfortable their stares make me, I don’t show them how my heart aches because they think I’m strange or different. I know my father and my mother love me very much, and I love them, and that’s all that matters to me.

I told my father about the stares and he apologized to me. He said they don’t see a lot of Metis people and when they do, it’s either a little baby or a boy. They haven’t seen a Metis woman before. I feel much better knowing they don’t hate me, they were just curious about me. Father changes the subject and says he received goods in return. I’m too tired to look through them, however, so I’m writing in here instead. I feel like I could sleep the entire ride home. I can’t wait to see mother. I’ll show her this journal and tell her all of the new words I learned, and how father spent so much time learning English for her, and how I know how to say I love you in Ojibwe. I’ll teach her it so she can tell my father and he can smile like he did when I told him that. I’ll tell her about the horse and how when we stopped for a break he would eat the grass. Father brought a container that had water and gave the horse that too. I will miss the horse when we have to return it. I will tell father that I will own a lot of horses and let people borrow them for supplies. I will make my mother and father proud of me.