Mouth of Tshenuamiu-shipu

Episode 2

That night the Pun family camped at the point at the mouth of Tshenuamiu-shipu. Wood shavings and many old tent posts were everywhere to be seen as many Innu families had camped at this spot in previous years on their way to and from the interior. Sometimes, families spent the entire summer here, preferring to keep their distance from the hustle and bustle of the trading post and mission.

Shanut slept like a baby on her fresh bed of fir boughs. The several weeks she’d spent at the post had meant too much leisure time, and she was a little out of shape for paddling. "Nikatshitishun! (I have sore muscles)" she whispered to her sister, as they swapped stories about their secret romances over the summer.

In the morning, the entire family visited the graves of two Elders. Mishen and Aniet lead a prayer for the deceased, and everyone sang a hymn. Then, they packed up their belongings, dismantled the tents, and loaded up the canoes again. On the way down to the beach, Shanut’s father, Pien, called out to her. "Apikushish, you are old enough to be kanishtamitakutshet (bowman) now. I want you to help your grandparents in their canoe."

Most of the journey upstream was just plain hard work. Pien and the other men, as well as the older boys, poled the canoes along the shore by some of the worst rapidsThe verb natai-kukushu means “s/he goes upriver using a pole.” Kuakushuakanashk u is the word for a “canoe pole, used for poling upstream in rapids.”1. The women and children had to walk along the shore. Walking was not easy at times, as some of the shoreline was soft sand or littered with boulders, and the last of the black flies swarmed about their faces in the afternoon sun.

Baby Matiu toddled behind, holding his mother’s arm with one hand, and clutching his innikueu (doll) in the other. Grandmother Kanikuen had made the doll for him during the summer, and it still smelled vaguely of her pipe tobacco. Nothing could separate him from his innikueu, his most prized possession, especially since it reminded him so much of Grandma. She was spending the year with her eldest son at Mishikamau, in another part of the territory.

On the third day traveling up the river, calamity struck on a lengthy stretch of rapids on Tshenuamiu-shipu called Kapitatshuass.* The day was cooler and a heavy mist of rain was falling everywhere. The rocks along the shore were especially slippery. Without warning, Shanut’s feet slipped out from under her, and before she knew it, she had fallen into the bubbling rapids. "Uitshiku , uitshiku (help, help)," she shrieked, for she could not swim. For more than a hundred metres she rushed downstream, her head bobbing up and down, and her body smashing up against rocks. Luckily, she was swept into an eddyAn eddy is a current of water running contrary to the main current. Eddies are usually found behind boulders, rocky outcrops, or points that interrupt a river current.2 behind one of the rocks along the shore, where she could catch her breath at last.

Meanwhile, her brother, Shinipesht, had seen the accident, and had leapt out of his canoe to run along the shore after her. "Apikushish," he shouted, "hang on, don’t panic, I’m coming after you." Within seconds, Shinipesht had arrived at the eddy, and pulled Shanut out of the water with all his might.

After a couple of hours beside a blazing fire, some bannock and smoked trout, and a couple of cups of hot tea, Shanut was as good as new. And, everyone resumed the journey upstreamThe Innu word for upstream is natimit. The word for downstream is mamit.3.




Footnotes

1 The verb natai-kukushu means “s/he goes upriver using a pole.” Kuakushuakanashk u is the word for a “canoe pole, used for poling upstream in rapids.”

2 An eddy is a current of water running contrary to the main current. Eddies are usually found behind boulders, rocky outcrops, or points that interrupt a river current.

3 The Innu word for upstream is natimit. The word for downstream is mamit.

Next   Previous  Top of page