“In the old days, if there was a family that was living in one location – like rabbit skin – there would be four or five families living there. And the old hunters would be hiking out there hunting their stocky moose, and sometimes in the fall time they would shoot three or four moose, all hanging around together, and they would get them all, OK?
“And, so, what would happen then is that – the hunter – he would go in there and he would, actually, he would skin the moose, make stages, hang the meat – it’s about a two or three day job. And once he’s done that he takes a small pack and he walks all the way back to the community. It might even take all day to get back there. And then he gets to the community and he informs the community “Hey, I shot these four moose, let’s go.” And in those day we were nomadic people, so we those big pack sacs, and their dogs with packs – so, everybody would then be “Yep, tomorrow morning we’ll go!” So, everybody gets pack sacs and the dogs are hauling, and everybody packs on this old trail – even out to edezjie – and they would walk all day through muskeg and beaver pond and hard ground and then they would get to the spot. And, of course, in those days too, there were no rubber boots, it was all moccasins, right? So their hiking and even kids are carrying little pack sacks. The women are carrying pack sacks and bedrolls. We’re talking at least ten or twelve people that will actually head to site, and they would stay there for, you know, maybe two, three nights, cutting up all the meat – making sure the meat is well smoked. And they would eat all the marrow bones, eh? Off course, they would get in there and eat all the marrow out of the bone. And some of the meat they would turn into dry meat. And then they’d pack it.
“And, anyways, there would be maybe four big hides sitting there, and this elder lady – she came from Fort Liard, and she lived with uncle Mustard Baptiste, and she was already over sixty years old, and she came along with them, there, too. And my dad said she got to the site and, of course, she started preparing a couple of these hides – taking the hair off, fleshing it – but this one big bull moose hide, she wanted to keep it as it was, she wanted to take it.
“So, anyways, she had this special pack sack, mountain pack sack. The thing must have been at least four feet wide and four feet high and quite a pack sack. Anyways, my dad says he was watching her and she went to that big bull moose hide and she had the hide up and then she rolled that whole hide in – it was already folded and everything – she rolled the whole thing into that big pack sack, with the hair and everything. And we’re talking about a little elder lady, you know with the dress and the little handkerchief, and you know calloused, tough hands – and she’s wrestling with this big pack sack.
“And everybody took off, they already got their packs full. A lot of them are gone, the dogs are gone. And we’re waiting, we’re waiting for this elder to get her pack sack, and the thing was this big high pack sack, and we’re just watching her saying to each other “how the…” but you can tell she was tougher than nails, eh?
“And so she gets to the pack sack, eh, and she has this traditional shoulder strap and so she just gets under this pack sack and calls over to us and says “hey boys, get over here and give me a hand.”
“So we grab the bottom of that pack sack and then she nudges herself forward and we lifted the pack – and it was heavy – and she stood up, and she was leaning forward a bit, you know, and she re-adjusted her self, and took a walking stick in her hand and BAM she was gone.
“My dad and I got our things together, and we chased after her and we didn’t catch up to her. We didn’t catch up to her! By the time evening came she was already at the river, and she had already gone across and was coming back to pack more meat back by coming across the creek.
“She didn’t even stop once,” they said.
“She just took that pack sack and b-lined it straight from the kill site to the rabbit skin river.
And now that is determination, and the will to accomplish, and the whole thing of being proud to be Dene.”