Documenting Travels

1820

Tân’si. Bonjour. Hello

While Cree people believe in passing on their stories orally, there are not many Cree’s that I encounter that don’t know my stories. Therefore, my husband, Jean-Paul, has encouraged me to start writing down my stories, to both document my stories and help improve my writing. My daughter Sophie, or nitânis, was also encouraged to do this, I hope she will. It will be good for her to practice her writing and French if she wants to work at the trading company.

I guess with this being the start , I should catch you up on my life so far.

I was born in 1788, at a reserve just south of the Hudson’s Bay, where I was given the name Mistawasis. I went to school, played with dolls, and did chores around the reserve, just like every other Cree child there. I sometimes went on trips with nikâwiy and nohtâwiy, my mother and father. I loved those trips where nohtâwiy would teach me about hunting, and tracking, and nikâwiy would teach me about the plants that could be found in different areas. Because we lived so close to where the Hudson’s Bay Company was situated, it was common for the elders on the reserve to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. We helped the Europeans hunt and we would help guide them  when they travelled to trading posts.

When I was 15, I was offered as wife to a French tradesman named Jean-Paul.  When I married him, I took on a French name, Rosalie L’Hirondelle, as was accustomed for us. I travelled with him, sewing and patching clothes, making him food. Because of those trips I went on when I was younger, I knew the land better than the traders most times. In 1805 , I had nitânis, my daughter. I had her while we were travelling back from York Factory to Fort Rupert, where we lived.

We spent a couple of years travelling from fort to fort, trading within the company and helping transport goods and information.

In spring of 1812, Jean-Paul was assigned to accompany the Coureurs des Bois back to England and France. Sophie and I went with him. There was another tradesman there that started teaching Sophie how to write common letters. I often listened along as I hadn’t ever properly learned. It kept us entertained for those long 8 months. When we came back to the fort, we heard news of the war of 1812. I was shocked that the Americans were trying to take Canada and that they thought that Canada would surrender easily.

There was much fighting between the Americans, the British and the French. The French and British ended up working together to defend the boarder and took Detroit, which they then gave back. The war ended in 1814 when the Treaty of Ghent was signed. I’m so glad that that is over.

And now it is 1820. The Hudson’s Bay fur traders are still going strong however we are often competing with the Northwest Company. Things are getting serious as far as rivalries go, I hope everything resolves itself. Nitânis still travels with Jean-Paul and I but she also works at one of the trading posts whenever we aren’t travelling. She definitely has a different life than I did growing up, but she’s first generation Métis so that is to be expected.

We are moving on so I must stop writing. I think I may continue with this, it helps me to understand this language so much more.

Kîhtwâm ka-wâpamitin. Au revoir. Good bye.

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