As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

Rowing with mɑksɛmɑ

We lived quite a bit up on the coast. We lived in different places: we lived in Theodosia, we lived in Okeover, Grace Harbour, just in other places that our people travelled wherever the food gathering was at that particular time of the year. So we’d move around. We lived there, and moved to another location after two weeks, three weeks, a month. Or if you travelled, like, we would travel from here to say, Squirrel Cove, that some of our people are living there, and it was a day trip, just to get from here to there. And there were no fast boats to take you there, no water taxi. So you just put up your sail. If the wind was blowing that way, you were there in a few hours. And you always went with the weather, of course. You just pulled in and camped wherever there’s a cabin. And that was a good thing with people years ago, they had little cabins along the coast. My grandfather and his brothers were all travellers. The cabins were made of rough cedar shakes. And the beds themselves, like, were homemade, but off the ground. And they were also cedar planks. So that’s all you had. And your bedding of course. And so we didn’t have beds and mattresses and all that kind of stuff ’cause you were moving quite a bit around. So you just had those plank beds. Wood stove in there.

My grandfather had this huge dugout canoe. He didn’t make it, but he went and traded with another man way up in Bute Inlet. And we got up there – I went with him and my grandmother, and he made the trade. I don’t know what the trade was, but we came back with this huge dugout canoe. And he used that a lot. Just going out fishing in front of the village, or travelling further up the coast. It was our vehicle. One person can manage it, but you had room for two people to row the boat, or you could put the sail if there’s a breeze. So that made it a lot easier to go from one place quicker. And so you would just need one person at the stern to paddle, to keep going in the right direction, right? So that was a fun thing for me. And to hold the strings, the rope that controls how much wind is in the sail, and my granny used to show me, “You pull this one, that one” – there’s two ropes that’s attached to his homemade sail. And so it was fun. We were living at Harwood Island and we went over to Refuge Cove. My aunt was living in Refuge Cove and my grandmother wanted to go visit her. And there’s a nice breeze that day, so off we went. We were there within a few hours, maybe three hours. It was a good little bit of wind took us there. Yeah. Stayed there till it was nice and calm and we just rowed back. Took our time. And that’s just how people travelled. That’s one of my fond memories. Travelling just with my grandmother, just the two of us.

My great-uncle, that was my grandfather’s brother, used to row everywhere he went. He would go fishing and row all over the place, all day long. That was his life. And we were in Okeover Inlet at the head of the inlet. There’s a river that goes through there but in the fall time it’s kind of fishy – I guess the fish are going up. So he would want to go and get some nice drinkin’ water. So, “Oh, we’ll go over here and bring the containers.” So I go with him. And he would say, “Oh, it’s not far. It’s just over there around that point over there.” So I’m rowing, I’m helping him rowing, and then we’d get to that point and, “Oh, another – next point over.” Next thing you know we’ve gone quite a little distance. So we’d fill up our containers and come back. And to him it was just the normal thing to do. And he would row over to Refuge Cove to get some goods, because there was a store there then. And he would row over there. Take him all day from the head of Okeover to go over there and then come back again. It’s just about dark when he gets back. But that was all okay. Yeah.

My grandfather eventually built himself a house – a floathouse. So it was just a house, one-room house, but it was on a float. And the float was logs all tied together. And so we travelled on that quite a bit. He would tow it. He got a gas boat then, just a little putt-putt. He had a five Easthope motor on there. So he would tow it – on a good day, he would tow it. And he’d go to a bay, and that’s where we’d be. And just anchor it and tie up to the beach where it’s deep water, and they don’t go dry there. So we lived like that. We went all summer to different places. And come back and one summer he had it pulled up over on Harwood there, where they pulled it up at the beach. So we were on dry land there, at Harwood.

Elsie Paul remembers rowing with mɑksɛmɑ in the documentary film, Kla Ah Men | Tla’amin | Sliammon

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