She stopped paddling and willed the boat to stop. Not twenty yards from the canoe was a moose. At last, she thought bitterly, we found meat; yet we have no tools to kill it. She growled in frustration and spoke quietly to her grandfather, telling him what was ahead.Read Kathryn Geddes's Mooz
For my story, I based it on the day my great great grandmother beat a moose to death with a paddle. When I saw the challenge, I asked my grandmother about some of our family history and this was the story she told me, albeit a bit fictionalised. For me, it is more than a funny story. For me, it shows the spirit of our aboriginal culture. When I learn new bits from our culture and I think about what we value, I see a culture based on the community. With this story, I hoped to show the cooperation and community that we believe in. My ancestor, Mathilda Martain, was 12 years old when she killed that moose and butchered it under the instruction of her blind grandfather. After the teachings she received and her cooperation with her grandfather, she spread her success with the rest of the reserve by sharing the meat.
These values that our culture holds are important in so many ways, especially as we are growing into an individualistic world. It is so important that we aboriginal people retain these values as we venture outside of the reserve. Not only do these values bring us happiness and ease, it also connects us to our history and culture.
The water broke into radial waves, moving gracefully away from the canoe. Mathilda looked up into the trees to see several birds chirping in the spring air.
Mathilda and her grandfather, blind as a bat but as ever keen on hearing, promised her Nookomis that they would bring back pickerel for supper, but there lines were as limp as dead fish. They had come out in early morning, hoping to get a head start on the day. Meat had evaded their menu for the past few weeks, despite their days spent on the lake. Now, the sky was darkening and the sun waned, as were their hopes of catching any fish.
“Where is the sun my girl? Where is it?”
Peering into the trees, she could see nothing but the last dying flames of the sun. Night had come.
“Nimishomis, the sun has set. I can’t see it.” She sat back down and checked her line, as if a small fish caught her notice.
“I think, my girl, that it is time to head back. Your Nookomis will make without. We’ll come again tomorrow.”
The old man’s smile was bright but did not quite reach his eyes, as if he doubted the words he spoke to her.
She did not object to his demands, but dipped her paddle slowly into the water, thrusting the canoe homewards with her strong strokes. Dip dip pause dip. Mathilda continued on with strong and steady strokes. She marvelled at the seamlessness of the canoe in the lake and focused on the smooth water.
She looked up.
She stopped paddling and willed the boat to stop. Not twenty yards from the canoe was a moose. At last, she thought bitterly, we found meat; yet we have no tools to kill it. She growled in frustration and spoke quietly to her grandfather, telling him what was ahead.
“Wait, my girl. Go to the other side, we can walk home from the other clearing.”
She said nothing in response. She felt sickly, as though she was starved for years and would not live any longer if she did not have food. The moose before her was tantalisingly close. She cold almost taste grandmother’s pemmican and black berries.
With one glance at her grandfather’s weakened frame, she knew she had to do something. She could do it, of course she could. How many years had she gone hunting with her father, her grandfather? Was it not because she was an only girl that her parents raised her like a boy? She was strong, she could kill the moose.
Ignoring her grandfather’s persistent tug on the back of her shirt she slid the paddle into the water, guiding the boat towards the massive creature. 10 yards away from it now. 8. 6. 4. 2.
Mathilda slipped the paddle out of the water and swung it high over her head, crashing it down onto the moose’s own. Relentlessly, she wacked its head until she could no longer see it struggle. It was done.
It was only at this point that she felt the heaviness of her limbs. She had killed the moose. Her grandfather grabbed her arm, pleading for her to tell him what happened. Mathilda only whispered a few words, feeling the solemnity of her actions and the loss of life, through her own hands. With a calmness about her, she took the paddle and plunged it into the water, gliding the canoe to shore. Once the canoe his the rocky beach she helped the old man onto land and she herself, dove back into the water. Quickly, Mathilda pulled herself to the moose, relishing in the ache of her arms as she thought, we can eat! Her elation was what drove her now, for she was utterly exhausted.
Reaching the moose, she pulled its leg and paddled back to shore, struggling to drag the beast with her. Pull after pull, tug after tug, she swam. Her legs fought back the pull of the water and her arms pulled both her and the beast from the lake.
Under her grandfather’s instruction, Mathilda ran through the forest, the cool night air biting at her warm cheeks. First, she would tell her grandmother what they were doing and then she would return to her grandfather with his hunter’s supplies. She was anxious to leave him there, but he told her to return by herself because it would be much quicker than the two of them making the same journey.
She could see the lights now, emanating from their small house windows. Her grandmother’s frame stood fragile against the falling sun, waiting for their return. Careful to avoid the rocks, her bare feet carried her up the hill to their house and to her grandmother’s arms. Mathilda answered her questions, shakily replying that they caught a moose, not fish. Turning from the elderly woman, she ran inside to her grandfather’s dresser and pulled out his tool package, beautifully embroidered by her grandmother’s hands. She then stood and ran back outside, yelling to her grandmother that she would be back.
By the time Mathilda reached the shore once more the suns last rays were invisible, and the clouds covered the light of the stars. Her grandfather looked up with the approach of her feet and he reached out for his pouch. Handing it to him, Mathilda knelt down to listen to his instructions. He could no longer see, but he could still talk, and he could still teach.
Working by the light of a small fire, Mathilda cut the moose into sections, making cuts along its upper and lower flanks, properly storing the entrails for later, and gathering all parts of the moose they could use.
Hours later, when the moose was completely butchered, she washed her hands in the cool water of the lake and looked at her grandfather, who sat sleeping against a large oak tree. When she looked to the stars, she could see the first rays of the sun.
That morning, she returned home with her grandfather in tow, guiding him along the path. Once home, she ran to the house nearby to borrow a small garden wagon. Returning to the shores of the lake, she filled the little wagon with as much meat as she could, and then returned home, giving her grandmother a chunk of meat. Then, she moved to the house next door, offering her cousins some meat.
For the remainder of the day, Mathilda ran back to the lake with the wagon and distributed the meat throughout the reserve.