To Trading Post

Episode 3

The mouths of some of the brooks were starting to open up by early May. Everyone wore (snow goggles) to protect their eyes from the glaring spring sunshine which reflected off the surface of the snow. Shimiu’s father, Kanikuen, led the way across the short cut from Ashuapun-shipu* to Kautatikumit-shipu* where everyone stopped for a boil-up of tea and innu-pakueshikan (bannock).

Shortly thereafter they reached the trading post at Emish. The group set up their tshinashkueutshuap (tepees) on a flat, barren point just across from the post. (Richard White) and Emish lived here for much of the year, where they traded with the Innu, ran a small sawmill, and lived off the land like the Innu.

Almost immediately Mishti Uait came over to the camp to greet them. "Hello again my friends," he said. "Long time no see. I hope you were all healthy this last winter. It was a hard one, I know. Very cold in January, then lots of snow in March. You all look strong and fit, so you must have done well by the caribou." With that, he took out a large stemau kapitauakant (tobacco bag) and proceeded to hand out tshishtemau (tobacco) to all the men and women, starting with Grandpa and Grandma. "Come and see me when you’re ready," he concluded. "We’ll get down to business soon enough."

Atika and the other men spent several hours that evening trading with Mishti Uait. They haggled over how much the Kakeshau would give them for their fox furs, and caribou hides, and how much they still owed him from the previous summer when they had purchased tea, flour and ammunition from him.

Sunday was a day of rest. Mishti Uait paid them another visit, this time in search of Grandma, Anitshishkueu. Mishti Uait’s Innu-aimun was not the best; he sounded like a child when he spoke, but at least one could make sense of what he said. "Nituss (my aunt)," he started. "I know that you are the best maker of innussin (moccasins) in Northern Labrador. Would you make some for me? Look I’ve brought you some colourful beads to use in the design. I’ll pay you the same as last year."

Anitshishkueu had made many things for Mishti Uait – it seemed that he wanted to send them to someone far away. Last year she made him a pishakanakup (caribou hide coat) , and painted it with beautiful, double-curved designs. Mishti Uait often supplied the paints, but she always had her own supply of that she carried in a small bone pot. No one had worn one of these painted coats for years, not since passed away before Shimiu was born. However, most Innu still wore caribou fur jackets during the winter.

"What’s that you have there, my son?" Mishti Uait asked Shimiu. Shimiu replied, "It’s a tapaikan (pin and boughs game). It’s a toy. Look, here’s how it works. Mishti Uait looked puzzled. "The boughs are going to dry up and only the sticks will remain." Shimiu told him, "I know that already. I’ll give it to you for a package of gum." "It’s a deal," retorted Mishti Uait, who took it and hung it up on his counter at the post. Eventually it did dry up, and the needles fell off. All that was left were the sticks.

Thereafter, Shimiu had a good laugh whenever he thought of the "fire starter" he traded to Mishti Uait in return for some gum.

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