Niska – Bernaches – Geese

Niska are flying due North this Miroskamin (Spring). They aren’t even pausing on the shores of Kitchi Sipi (Saint-Lawrence river) near Moriak.

Niska is the Atikamekw word for Geese. In French, they used to be known as Bernaches, but now are called Outardes.

My grandfather would take down the taps out of the maple trees whenever Niska flew due North without stopping. The rain would soon start and the sap would loose its sweetness.

Bernaîche is the name my early ancestors took when they were required by Colonists to take a last name.

Bernaiche ascendance
Bernèche, Bernaîche, Bernache

Sîkon is over; Miroskamin is upon us.

Perce-neiges. Moriak (Montréal), taken March 27th, 2016.

#Métis kin from #Mauricie

In previous posts (see here and here “and here), I’ve written about the kinship connections that exists between the Red River Métis families and their Lanaudière and Mauricie kin and before my next post, I wanted to talk a little bit about the geography of the communities of my ancestors.

The Mauricie region nestles Lanaudière and is the gateway to the *Pays d’En Haut”, or Upper Country that was once part of Rupert’s Land:


Wait… RUPERT’S LAND? Isn’t that up in the North-West? 

Well – yes. But it was also in Quebec:


Our ancestral land did not have borders such as we define them in contemporary colonialist terms. Administrative regions were creations of the Settler’s need for land *ownership*.

The region was named after the St-Maurice river that runs through it which, in turn, was named after an 18th century Settler called Maurice Poulin. My Indigenous ancestors have different names for the river: Anicinàpe call it Métabéroutin – meaning wind change, Atikamekw call it Sipi Tapiskwan – meaning river that’s like threading a needle  and Ab8naki call it Madôbaladenitekw – meaning the river that finishes.

Now go back to the part where I explain my First Nation ancestry that makes me Métis, and look at the Nations that are a part of me. Cool huh?

The funny thing is that I have always known that I was a *mixture* – métissage in French – and that my Settler ancestors and myself had strong kinship connections with all three Nations. 

Could Métis mean more than the mixing of French and Indigenous? I think that in Québec, it certainly does.

My research of my First Nation ancestors led me to discover a few things that validate our oral history: 

Anicinàpe, Atikamekw and Ab8naki shared similar odoodeman – a form of government and a means of dividing labour. From how I understand it, a doodem is akin to blood kinship. The relationships between my First Nations ancestors were much more about the clan – or more appropriately doodem -than to a particular Nation. 

When Métis in my region meet and greet, we always name our grandfathers as a way to *recognize* each other. I will be looking for more clues about how similar it is to my Anicinàpe kin who greet each other with Aaniin odoodemaayan? or: Which clan do you belong to? I promise to share with you what I find in future posts!