Ojibwe Stories from the Upper Berens River: A. Irving Hallowell and Adam Bigmouth in Conversation

Ojibwe Stories from the Upper Berens River: A. Irving Hallowell and Adam Bigmouth in Conversation

Ojibwe Stories from the Upper Berens River: A. Irving Hallowell and Adam Bigmouth in Conversation

Ojibwe Stories from the Upper Berens River: A. Irving Hallowell and Adam Bigmouth in Conversation

Synopsis

In Ojibwe Stories from the Upper Berens River Jennifer S. H. Brown presents the dozens of stories and memories that A. Irving Hallowell recorded from Adam (Samuel) Bigmouth, son of Ochiipwamoshiish (Northern Barred Owl), at Little Grand Rapids in the summer of 1938 and 1940. The stories range widely across the lives of four generations of Anishinaabeg along the Berens River in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

In an open and wide-ranging conversation, Hallowell discovered that Bigmouth was a vivid storyteller as he talked about the eight decades of his own life and the lives of his father, various relatives, and other persons of the past. Bigmouth related stories about his youth, his intermittent work for the Hudson's Bay Company, the traditional curing of patients, ancestral memories, encounters with sorcerers, and contests with cannibalistic windigos. The stories also tell of vision-fasting experiences, often fraught gender relations, and hunting and love magic--all in a region not frequented by Indian agents and little visited by missionaries and schoolteachers .

With an introduction and rich annotations by Brown, a renowned authority on the Upper Berens Anishinaabeg and Hallowell's ethnography, Ojibwe Stories from the Upper Berens River is an outstanding primary source for both First Nations history and the oral literature of Canada's Ojibwe peoples.

Excerpt

In the summers of 1938 and 1940 an elderly Ojibwe man spent a good many hours with an American anthropologist, A. Irving Hallowell, at Little Grand Rapids, a small community on the upper Berens River in eastern Manitoba. Hallowell and other outsiders knew this old man as Adam or Samuel Bigmouth (fig. 1), and he appears as Adam in Hallowell’s papers. Among his own people he was known as Gisayenaan or “Our Elder Brother” (Butikofer 2009, pt. ii.3, 296). Adam’s father was Ochiibaamaansiins (Otcibamasis or Northern Barred Owl in Hallowell’s usage), a highly regarded traditional doctor, and Adam himself was known for his curing skills. This book introduces Adam from another angle—setting forth the storytelling and remembering that he carried on with Hallowell during those two summers, once he found an attentive listener who cared about what he had to say.

The Conversations

Adam told Hallowell dozens of stories about his and his people’s lives, experiences, and perspectives. He had met this white man before. Hallowell had spent time at Little Grand Rapids almost every summer since 1932 when he made his first field trip up the river. With him on all his trips was William Berens (fig. 2), chief of the Berens River reserve at the mouth of the river, who in 1930 had steered Hallowell to the upriver . . .

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