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My Family History: Mrs. Harriette McCallum

Maria P. McCallum

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1989      p14  
Mrs. Harriette McCallum
Mrs. Harriette McCallum
I was born in Sandy Bay, Saskatchewan in 1934, I'm 78 years old. I had fifteen children during my marriage to my late husband, Henry. As a child when I grew up, I've seen many things and my parents told me much of the olden ways of their parents.

My family lived in a tent. There were eight of us children. It was very hard in those days. My late father, Paul, would trap all year 'round to provide for us. My mother taught us many crafts, and other important household duties.

In those days we had no welfare, family allowances or any source of income. What my mother and father provided for us, we ate. Our daily meals consisted of wild game which were fish, duck, moose meat, beaver, rabbit, rat and wild chicken or ptarmigan. Our other basic necessities came from The Hudson Bay Company. To get these extra needs, men had to trade furs with the company.

We bought cloth to make our own clothing, but we also used moose hide for moccasins, jackets, mitts and fur hats. The moose they killed provided many good things for our basic needs. We used the moose bones and fat to make soap. My mother, Demoley, would boil it until bubbles occurred. This soap was good for blankets and our clothing. It made them so clean and new looking. By the use of this soap no one would ever get sick because this soap would make the items germ free.

Our medical needs were all provided from the roots of plants. When someone would get sick, my mother would boil the roots to get a liquid that would make us feel better. Today, I myself use this method to help people get better. The main root we used and still use mostly is called "Rat Root" (Wee geese). It's more effective than aspirin and kills pain fast. Our mother would also use Muskeg (Askeeya) to pamper us in, this prevented diaper rash.

Other events I remember when I was a child were; when the first airplane came out to our place I ran and hid. Most people were afraid of the airplanes that came and went, so they would do the same. Our first game was called 'checkers', the same game that people play today. The game board was made from birch bark which was outlined in black ash on the bark and the checkers were made from small pieces of wood.

We also had all different kinds of jams to eat for desert. We had blueberry, cranberry, raspberry and gooseberry jams. We had no sugar back then to make the jam sweet. We used wild carrots which were white and very sweet, for sugar. The women would also use these different berries to create the colors red and blue. Then they would use the dyes to color and design moccasins. The hides from wild game like rabbit, caribou and moose were used to make warm blankets for cold weather. The pillows we used were stuffed with duck feathers which were very soft.

Our kitchen utensils (forks and spoons) were made from wood and. The most interesting one and the sharpest, was the knife made from Moose ribs. To keep it sharp, we used a stone. Our dishes, pots and pans were made from clay. Most of the old tools they used long ago were made from wood. Men would use spears to kill wild game. For fishing they used the following; Line came from a foxe's tail and the hook was made from a wild chicken wish bone. The pole was made from wood.

As time went on and I grew older, all these items and tools slowly disappeared. That was because we got modern tools and household items through the Hudson's Bay store. I myself settled down and got married, though it wasn't easy at all for me and my children, but it was better. At least there was food and love for all of us.

What I learned from my mother long ago, I still teach my own grandchildren today. I'm so glad when they ask me for my help; because I know the olden ways won't be forgotten. Well this is my story for you to read and enjoy.