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Trickster Lessons in Early Canadian Indigenous Communities

Carolyn Podruchny

Keywords: Canada; Cree; Ojibwe; oral narratives; tricksters

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.

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