Emish

Episode 4

Shimiu and Shushepin were playing on the ice in front of the camp one morning, each taking turns at target practice with their uepanishinan (sling). "Take aim at that rock over there by the shore," Shimiu shouted. Shushepin wound up with all her force, swinging a large rock around and around furiously. The rock went whizzing through the air right towards Shimiu. SMACK! "Kamatshishit!" (you devil), Shimiu cried out in pain. Shushepin had landed a real bruiser on his jaw, and it started to swell up immediately. They were both afraid of what mother would say when they got home, so Shimiu covered his jaw with a scarf.

"Shimiu," his mother demanded later that day. "What are you hiding under that scarf? Petute (come here)! How did you get that bruise?" When Shimiu explained that it was an accident, all she could say was "You children are going to kill yourselves one of these days if you’re not more careful."

That evening, the family ate bannock and fresh char that Kanikuen and the other men caught in nets they’d placed under the ice. Shimiu had almost finished his meal when he heard a noise outside the tepee, coming from further down the bay. "Eiuk, Eiuk, Eiuk, Eiuk." Everyone piled out of the tepee to investigate the source of the strange sound.

Far in the distance they could see two lines of dogs racing towards them, with little stick men sliding along behind them. "Eiuk, Eiuk, Eiuk," the men commanded the dogs. "Go straight, go straight." Shimiu was utterly amazed at the speed they were traveling at, even though there was now some slush and water on the ice.

It wasn’t long before and his brother drew up in front of them, along with their dog teams. Pitshu and Nipishapui ran for cover in a tepee, as they had every reason to fear the larger, semi-wild dogs. Shushepish’s huskies immediately got into a big racket over a rotting seal carcass they found on the ice, and it was a good while before he was able to untangle their atim-utapaniapi (dog harness).

Shushepish was married to Shanimen’s sister, and he had come up from Utshimassit to trade with Mishti Uait. He was extremely happy to see his wife’s relatives again, and many hours were spent sharing news about all that had happened since the last time they had seen one another.

As daylight turned to dusk, the sounds of honking geese drifted across the bay. The candles in the tepees were lit, and the bedding laid out around the edges of Shimiu’s tepee. "If we are quiet and respectful, perhaps our grandfather, Atika, will tell us an tonight," his mother told him.

And that is exactly what happened. The dry spruce logs crackled and popped as they burned in the hearth, the candle light played with the shadows on the walls of the tepee, and everyone tried not to giggle too much as Atika recounted another one of his stories.

Which story did he tell? Was it the one about that crazy Kuekuatsheu, the heroic Tshakapesh, grandfather Mishtapeu, or the invincible Kaianuet? We’ll save the answer to that question for another day.

This is the name of a real person. Shushepish, also known by the names Shushep Rich or Joe Rich, was born in the Utshimassit (Davis Inlet) area. He was well known to anthropologists, William Duncan Strong, Alika Podolinsky Webber, and Georg Henriksen. He was renowned as a great storyteller and expert in Innu culture.

In general Innu stories are divided into two categories : tipatshimun a and atanukan a. Tipatshimun a concern the real life events of Innu people, living or dead, whereas atanukan a recall the creation of the world and events which transpired during a time when humans and animals could communicate and have social relations with one another.

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