Oral History of a Cree Woman
Katherine grew up on a trading post far north of Edmonton, Alberta. Her parents supplied goods and traded with the Cree Indians. Katherine’s father, Albert would travel many miles through treacherous weather to procure supplies by horse and cart. He would be gone for weeks at a time while Katherine and and her mother, Hannah would be left alone to hope for his safe return.
Hannah taught Katherine to keep meticulous handwritten records of all the transactions. When the Indians would come to trade, they would come in large groups and set up their tepees and stay for several weeks. Katherine’s parents often extended credit to the Cree. Sometimes, the credit may go for up to two years and longer but the Cree always paid their debts as they were honorable people.
Katherine learned to speak the Cree language so she was able to play freely with the children. By the time Katherine was 12 years old, she was tasked with keeping records of births and deaths by the Alberta government.
Katherine recounted a story to her grandson about one very severe snowy winter there. Her father, Albert found a Cree woman lying in the snow. She had just given birth and mother and child were exposed to the elements and in danger of freezing. Albert bundled the Cree mother and her baby up and took them home to be tended to by Hannah. Katherine was only about 4 years old. The mother and baby spent the night and were warmed and the mother was fed. In the morning, mother and baby were gone.
About a month later, a pair of beautiful handmade moccasins were found lying at the front door. The moccasins fit Katherine perfectly. Every year after that, a perfectly fitting pair of moccasins for Katherine were found at the front door in the same month of the birth of the Cree baby
( this story was told to my husband by his grandmother, Katherine)
Painting in the Palm Springs Art Gallery Collection
Originally published at cowbird.com.