The Whetagu

as told to Jackie Wanderspirit by her grandmother

This is a Cree story. A long time ago a family went to the bush for a while, there were parents and two children. One very clear day in the winter time, the children were playing, the mother was cooking and the father was out hunting. When the father came back he was empty handed.
 As it grew dark the wind grew stronger, then it started to snow. it was snowing so hard you couldn't see in front of you. The family hovered around the little wood stove while the wind whistled and the trees swished around their log cabin. They started to worry but their father told them not to worry and that the storm would end soon so they fell asleep. 
When they woke they were surprised to see the storm was still raging. The father could not see outside of the window because of the snow. They knew the storm was still wild because they could hear it outside. Three days passed and the family's food supply was running low. By the time the night came the food was all gone. They had to wait out the storm. The father could not handle it anymore. He ate his family to survive the storm. After this, his mind went out of control. When the storm was just settling down he made his way out of the cabin to look for more food. As soon as he got outside the storm picked up again. 
So my grandma said that when you are playing outside and it gets dark and it starts to get windy and snowing hard to go back in the house because the Whetagu is coming to look for his next meal. So when a storm comes at night just out of the blue, you'll know who it is.  


You know it's -20 when your nostrils stick together and you get a cold burning sensation up your throat  when you breathe through your mouth. The boots I brought from home are giving out to the cold and my fingers have started to freeze inside my gloves at recess. The moon is as bright when I walk to school as when I walk home. 
I read the "Jean Marie Memoirs," a book put together by some of the more literate members of the community. It is very engaging, it tells the life stories of some of the elders and traces their families back to the three sisters that founded the community. The founding family's names are Norwegian, Hardisty, Sanguez and Sake I believe. Jean Marie originally served as a camp area for men on fishing trips until one of the elders told the people to built a community where their kids could be educated on the land. It was a good place because of its proximity to Kelly Lake and other fertile waters where they could be certain jackfish would be found. 10 families lived here in the beginning and it was a very peaceful, isolated community. Everyone spoke Slavey and men did men's work- hunting, trapping, setting nets, chopping wood, and women did women's work- kids, preparing meat, cooking, preparing moose hides, sewing, beading etc. When men came home from hunting they shard their kill evenly with the rest of the families, the kids respected their elders and no one was lazy or drunk. The only time people could afford to charter the plane to Fort Simpson was for doctors check ups every three months. The school came to jean Marie in 1958 and was named after an elder of the community who died in a boating accident and fell through the ice of the Jean Marie River (Louie Norwegian). The elders in the book speak a lot about the value of hard work, how life is work and a native man's life should be work in nature. Meat was prepared daily by drying and smoking it and drinking water was drawn from the river after digging a hole through the ice, or big pales of snow where brought inside to melt.