06 December 2010

Saa'kssoyaa'tsis And Iinisskimm


Saa'kssoyaa'tsis (4Dec10)

1253 Sspopiikimi - Mahoney and I have come out to make our rounds on this first day of misamiko'komiaato's (the long nights moon). For me, it is the third day of my experiment, to try and engage with these places more fully as a human being, striving ultimately to feed myself from them. When I was here last, I collected i'naksa'pis (dogbane) to make twine with. Most of that bundle still sits at home unprocessed

1307 A lot of the snow has melted since my last visit, but what remains is fairly iced over and gives off a strong reflection from the Sun. We move around north-pond and up the levee to the cutbank overlooking Oldman River. Along the opposite side of the river there's open water, and I was hoping the eagles would be around for Mahoney to see, but none at the moment. There is, on the other hand, a nice group of goldeneyes diving there, at least six of them. My mind is still on the need to gather more fibrous plants for twining material and containers. I'm just going to keep my eyes open for possible resources

1321 At the river bench, we sit down for a break. There's a flicker here, searching out tidbits in the poplar canopy. Below us, on the forest floor, there are still lots of good prickly rose hips and bulberries. These could be eaten in and of themselves, but they could also be used as bait to secure meat. I'm thinking pheasants, grouse and partridge in particular. It wouldn't take much. A very simple (though some might consider it cruel) method is to string some rose hips on a piece of twine, securing one end to a tree. The bird eats the berries, along with the twine line, and is basically snared by it's stomach

1352 We continue upstream and drop down into the owl wood. The oriole nest we've been monitoring is still dangling in the canopy, it didn't tear free in the chinook. We can hear a waxwing somewhere nearby, it's little cricket voice. And we've stopped to inspect a dead cottonwood tree for it's qualities. Both it's outer and inner bark are too brittle for use in fashioning containers. But the dry, dead cambium would make a pretty decent firestarter, almost like paper

1410 Moving further into the forest, I continue to play with different plants, to explore their qualities. I start with tall goldenrod, which feels at first as though it might have twining property, the stem is not easily snapped by hand. But when I get a good stem to work with, I find no fiber to speak of. Even less useful, in this sense, is the wild licorice. These stems snap easily into fragments

1417 We follow the owl wood trees until reaching the river cutbank upstream, below the high-level bridge. Here there is an open water crag, and a single goldeneye is floating around and diving. I imagine it would be incredibly difficult to hunt goldeneyes without firearms. They are so skittish, and they keep to the little strips of river water far from shore. Just brainstorming, the only way I could imagine getting one would be to fashion some kind of blind, as close as possible to this open water, and maybe employ a throw net with stone weights

1445 Starting to make our way back, we stop off in the bulberry brush above the south-pond peninsula. The Blonde is still here, after several weeks of cleaning the remaining berries. Today she's eating rose hips, because there really aren't many bulberry fruits left to speak of, at least not in this patch

1557 Back to the vehicle now, but before we left the peninsula I inspected the saa'kssoyaa'tsis (nettle) for how it's fibers are in this season. Actually, they seem very good, and the plants have long since dropped their seeds, so I gathered what stems there were at this site to bring home. The only other incident of note was that we saw a meadow vole skitter across the snow by the peninsula bench. This was the longest glimpse we've ever caught of one of these ever-present but elusive rodents

1703 We've decided that The Blonde in the bulberries the last couple weeks is actually The Blonde's offspring. She has The Blonde's coloration, but Peekaboo's face, and she's a bit smaller than either of them. We will call her Goldie Boo

II Iinisskimm (5Dec10)

0756 Naapisisahtaa Kaawahko - I told myself that I'd wake up and explore the coulee at dawn, and so here I am, walking straight down from my house. And it's cold-cold this morning, so freezing that my mind and body aren't really engaged with the exercise yet. But I'll warm up soon enough

0758 The magpies must be roosting all together on these cold nights, because as I approach the draw I'm going to follow down to the river, a group of twenty-five are winging their way up from below. One of them kind of circles around me before continuing. It's probably one of Derrick's friends and recognizes me from the house

0818 I'm coming into view of the river now, and there are thousands of aapsspini lining the open water upstream by Paradise Canyon. They're starting to give their morning honks, and will probably depart before I get down there

0828 I came across a coyote den down in this draw last summer, so I've made an effort to relocate it. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they're occupying it any longer. It's entrance is almost completely covered over in hard drift, and there are no prints. I was thinking maybe I would find some old deer bones around here, something I could try to make use of in my project, but there's nothing in view on any of the exposed ground

0835 The snow is so hardened on this slope, I just took a good jolt and had to struggle a bit to keep myself from sliding down too far too fast. I'm going to have to move more carefully for the next bit. Just after I fell, a small bird fluttered over to check me out. I didn't get a positive identification, but I think it might have been a redpoll. It was about that size, and I'm pretty sure I saw some red on it's head

0851 So I've arrived at the river-bottom, and the geese are still here. The first one has just taken to the air, and they're all honking as if they might follow pretty quick. I'm going to walk up in their direction, because I know there's a nice patch of rabbit willow up that way that I might be able to make some use of

0909 Sitting on the cutbank of the Oldman, near a pool of open water, where thousands of geese are honking and getting coordinated to fly off to the surrounding stubble-fields above the coulee rim. Behind me, there's a tree full of roosted waxwings, chirping like crickets. The river is alive with voices this morning

1008 Family by family, the massive flock of aapsspini begin taking to the air, heading up to the breakfast that awaits them. While they make their departures, I walk around a sandbar and collect a small bundle of willow shoots, about as much as I can carry with one hand. And by the time I've gathered what I can manage, all of the geese have left. I too will head back up the slope now, following a different coulee draw then the one that brought me down here

1036 It's a difficult climb up the draw I've chosen: steep, hard-packed with snow, and thick with chokecherries. There's a lot of pheasant sign in this brush, and indeed one of them flushes as I crash awkwardly through. Up above, I come to a saddle ridge where there's a large, boulder iinisskimm. It looks just like a buffalo calf, and I have no doubt that it was positioned here in purpose in the ancient days to draw the bison down into this draw, where they could be easily hunted from the ridge above. Further up, at the coulee rim, I know there is also an effigy of Sspopii, the Painted Turtle, marking the area where I just picked willow, and all of the floodplain of Paradise Canyon as a sacred tobacco planting grounds. Last year, under advisement from our elders, the developers expanding suburbia in this area put a fence around the Sspopii effigy. While I'm glad it's being protected, I don't agree with this approach at all. To me, it's treating the site like a grave, and I feel it would have been better to incorporate it into whatever landscaping plans there are for this area, and use the opportunity for public education about the history of this coulee, and our responsibilities as human beings to the animals we have long-standing relationships with here

1100 When I crest the coulee rim, there's a coyote. It sees me and runs down past me into the draw, just below the effigy. Perhaps this is where the new den is located. A little further along, when I'm almost back into my neighborhood, I pass very close to a white-tailed jackrabbit and don't even see it in the snow until it scampers away near my feet. So camouflaged these rabbits are, which is a good thing for them if they have to share space with the coyotes