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When Nathan and I returned to the community of Pikangikum after a month in the bush, the elders asked what we had eaten; not the white man’s food, but Anishinaabe food. We had a long list! Lots of fish – walleye, pickerel, whitefish, sucker, even trout; beaver, including the tail roasted on a fire; rabbit; several ducks; grouse, and muskrat. Gordon had specifically caught a muskrat for us to sample. Muskrat were once widely consumed in the springtime during trapping, but they were valued mainly for their fur. Elder Charlie Peters never got over the story, and continues to prod me for having eaten ‘rat’. So he started calling me ‘muskrat’,  waa-shaa-shk.

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Video Work: ‘Opening Space: walking the common’

(Running time 20minutes 56 seconds)

This is a video presentation made for the “Opening Space: Approaching commons through new conceptualisations of places and landscapes”. A special session at the 12th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons, “Governing shared resources: connecting local experience to global challenges” University of Gloucestershire (Cheltenham), 14th -18th July, 2008).

Thanks very much to the site editors for the invitation to place the video on the site.

Please note: compressing it for web broadcast has lessened the image quality, especially if you try to view it on full screen.

In the community of Pikangikum, Ontario, commercial trapping and fishing were primary income generating activities until the last two decades when prices dropped and costs rose, making it difficult to live on the land. Even as extensive government subsidies were introduced in the post-war period, Pikangikum people continued to hunt, fish and trap on their family areas, which are in some cases remote from the community. It is only recently that we find people settled in the town site of Pikangikum year-round.

For Inuit, songs are a form of oral tradition. They are passed on stories that embody people’s relationships with the landscape. Narrating about hunting journeys, the chores of butchering and flensing animals, as well as unusual events, singing embraces people experiences on the land. Music becomes a milieu that connects the proximal environment with individual and collective “memoryscape”.

One of the complexities of cultural landscapes is that they are not just the physical or tangible things that we can see but the way in which meaning inheres in the tangible. One way that meaning can be expressed is through the stories people tell about the landscape. In the Anishinaabe corpus of oral knowledge ideas, ethics and meaning are often expressed through Weeskay Jak and his adventures on the land. This is one such story told by Oliver Hill in Anishinaabe with the English version told by Paddy Peters. This is a test to see how podcasts can be used to share these stories.