Pike Lake Culture Daylocal artist: Solomon Colomb 2002

December 3rd, 2013, 7pm

It was -27°C with few clouds. The breeze was light.

In early May I got to attend the Pike Lake Culture Day. I went with the grade 8 Cree class from Scott Bateman middle school. The class had been asked to attend and assist with the kindergarten class from Joel A Ross. We helped the teacher Veronica, keep tabs on small children as well as help with some of the cooking. When we arrived, we found three ducks ready to be plucked. The fires were already set and a great place. Our class arrived first and set up the provisions that we had brought. Mrs. Cable had made bannock and blueberry jam, he finished cooking the jam over the open fire when we first arrived. Some of our students and myself started plucking the ducks. When the kindergarten class arrived they were excited to get their hands on the ducks. They made very short work of removing the feathers. The older children finish them off removing the last bits of feathers around the neck. After that we needed to singe the wings and tail feathers off. We did this by placing the birds one at a time spread eagle over the grate. The smell of the singeing feathers was like a bad grease fire. After all three ducks were singed the bodies were scraped of the black soot. You are told if this wasn’t done the soup would taste like gasoline. Veronica chopped off their heads and place them back on the fire grate to cook. She then cut up the birds removing intestines and heart. The children were called around so they could see the birds gizzard and what was inside of it. When the ducks were all cut into manageable pieces they were placed into the boiling water over the fire. To that onions, and seasoning and the cooked heads were added, the soup cooked for another hour. Mrs. Cable also brought some elk meat, and that was cut up along with onions and potatoes to make a stew.

I noticed that some of the children were busy collecting some of the feathers. In one case a little girl had found a breast section that was fully in tact. She said “her grandmother would make a feather comb for her hair.” Was very soft and perfect round shape, she is very careful with putting it into her backpack.

Everything was ready around 12:30 as well as the cooking that each classroom what’s doing, there was a group preparing a massive feast for the community members and parents of the school children. An Elder was called upon to say a prayer over the food that everyone was about to enjoy. The feast had a number of different dishes available, there was more duck, some moose, muskrat tails, beaver tails and a selection of potatoes, bannock and jam. There were approximately 40 different classrooms paired together to cook over 20 open fires. The parents of the school children came and joined with their children to eat the soup and bannock that they had prepared. I was told that you never take back the food you came with, it was traditional to give any left over away, so much of the elk stew was given to Veronica and her family. 

There was a demonstration on skinning beavers, and stretching them to dry. I really enjoyed the day and had a lot of fun with the young children. I have been told, that they would like to have the next cultural day at a bigger location so that there would be room for games.

David Wade and Joanne said thanks.

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Barbara Shaw-Ings

Education Student

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