Trickster Lessons in Early Canadian Indigenous Communities

in Sibirica
Restricted access

Abstract

This article compares the trickster stories of Anishinaabeg (Ojibwes) and Ininiw (Cree) people, specifically the Swampy Cree or Omushkegowak, in northern Canada. Focusing on one storyteller from each culture—Omushkego Louis Bird from the west coast of James Bay and Anishinaabe William Berens from the east coast of Lake Winnipeg—the article demonstrates that the long-term practice of telling sacred stories taught Indigenous peoples how to survive and thrive in their harsh environments. Although Omushkego stories highlight the importance of individual resourcefulness for survival, stories from both cultures emphasize that people should live together in communities to achieve the best life. The article also emphasizes the importance of appreciating local distinctiveness, listening carefully to Indigenous voices, and seeking guidance from Indigenous people.

Contributor Notes

Carolyn Podruchny is an associate professor of history at York University in Toronto. Her research focuses on the relationships forged between Indigenous peoples and French newcomers in northern North America. Her first monograph, Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade (University of Nebraska Press, 2006) examines French Canadian voyageurs that worked in the fur trade based out of Montreal, and ranging to the Great Lakes, the Great Plains, northern woodlands, and the subarctic. She co-edited, with Laura Peers, Gathering Places: Aboriginal and Fur Trade Histories (University of British Columbia Press, 2010), which illuminates new theories and methodologies in ethnohistory in central North America, spanning the Canadian and U.S. borderlands; and co-edited, with Nicole St-Onge and Brenda Macdougall, a volume exploring Metis history in the same region, titled Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility and History (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012).

Sibirica

Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies