Friday, September 19, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: Kikinoamagewinini, pintiken.

My father's lessons in the Ojibway language
started the day he arrived in Lansdowne House.

The Father's Island
Photo by D. B. MacBeath, 9-13-1960
"Here are my trunks landed by canoe on the Father's beach.
The Brother hauled them from here to my cottage for me."
© M L (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Let me make clear at this point
that I will be using my father's words
that were used in that time and place.
I am not being disrespectful,
nor am I ignorant.

I want to portray how, half a century ago, 
the white people of Northern Ontario
spoke about its indigenous people.

Today Canadian Aboriginal people consist of
the First Nation, Inuit, and M├ętis populations.
Canadians no longer use Indian and Eskimo.
Words such as these are considered pejorative.  

In 1960 the First Nation people were called Indians.
The Indians in Lansdowne House were Ojibwa,
although my father sometimes referred to them as Ojibawa.
They spoke the Ojibway language.

Ojibwa is derived from Outchibou,

a seventeenth century name for a group of Aboriginals
living north of Sault Ste. Marie
between Georgian Bay on Lake Huron
and eastern Lake Superior.

Georgian Bay (Blue) on Lake Huron
The Great Lakes from Upper Left:
Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario
The Canadian-American border is dot-dashed in.

By 1800 four groups of Ojibwa had formed.
The Neskantaga First Nation 
(formerly Lansdowne House Indian Band)
is descended from the Northern Ojibwa 
who inhabited the boreal forest
of northern Ontario and Manitoba
and intermarried with the Swampy Cree 
who lived further north and west.

Today the Neskantaga First Nation
is categorized as Oji-Cree,
and it is considered a distinct nation
from its Ojibwa and Cree forebears.
The people refer to themselves as the Anishininiwag,
which means Original People.  
The Canadian Encyclopedia

Anishininiwag or Oji-Cree Territory (Orange)

Now back to my father.
He flew into Lansdowne on September 13, 1960
on a Norseman bush plane with pontoons  
and bucking a strong headwind all the way.

With help from Brother Bernier,
he transported his belongings to the two-room "cottage"
he would share with Uno Manilla.

He checked out his new school 
to discover not a stick of furniture in it.

He spent the afternoon learning to operate a canoe 
he rented from the Hudson Bay post
so he could travel back and forth
between the Father's Island and the Mainland.

He met Father Ouimet, the Oblate missionary,
with whom he shared many meals at the rectory.

Photo by D. B. MacBeath, 9-13-1960
"Close up of the Norseman in which I flew up.
The fellow on the wing is pumping gas for the trip."
© M L (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Finally, after a long and exhausting day,
my father found himself alone in his cottage
in the early evening,
but not for long.

Dad opened the door to shake a couple of rugs.
In a few moments he was surrounded by
a crowd of Indian children all saying,
"Kikinoamagewinini, pintiken."

In my father's words:
"To be agreeable, I said, 'Yes,' 
and before I knew what was happening, 
I had the house full of Indian children.  
I didn’t know what to do with them 
or what to say to them to get them out.  
Apparently, they did know what 'yes' is in English.

"Fortunately, the Father came along 
right at the right time and got them out for me.  
Right then, I invited the Father in to tell me, 
first, what I had said yes to, 
and then, what he had said to get them out." 

So began my father's language lessons
with Father Ouimet.

"I have learned some words of the Ojibway tongue,"
my father wrote that night. 
"Not very many, but a few.  
Here they are:

         Kikinoamagewinini...................Teacher (male)
         Pintiken.....................................Come in (imperative, 
                                                            and apparently, interrogative)                                                                                  
         Ni wi pin tike.............................I want to get, or come in
         Ein ein.......................................Yes
         Matchon....................................Get out, or leave
         Kiwen........................................Go, go home, or go back"

There was no turning back for my father.
His northern adventure had truly begun.

Symbol of the Anishinaabe Peoples 
including the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree (Anishininiwag), Odawa and the Potawatomi. 


  1. Wow, this is a fascinating post! You are ahead of me in knowing this language. My mother tongue is English and I am fluent in French, but that is as far as my languages go. I can understand some Italian, but little. Thank you so much for sharing this, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  2. I'm so glad that you found it fascinating, Linda. I get so absorbed in writing and editing posts that I have no sense of how they will be received. Thanks for the feed back. Have a great weekend!

  3. haha oh what some language mistakes can do. Better to just shake your head then have a whole bunch of kids invade your house. The cat would not like that haha

    1. Cats reign supreme! They are experts at the disdain! Have a good one!

  4. You have me 'hooked' now, Louise! What a fascinating story your father has to tell. And to think that he found himself on an island in 1960 with no knowledge of the language and an empty classroom/school!! What an adventurer he must have been. I can see now where you get 'it' from. How exciting for you to be re-telling his story and keeping it alive. I am sure he would be so proud of this, yes?

    1. Thanks, Jim! It is exciting to be telling my dad's/our story. What is driving me is not to let all this disappear. I'm so hoping my dad would be proud of me. I'm trying to honor his voice and all the other voices. On some level he must have trusted and believed in me, because he gave me the letters and pictures so long ago. I know now that I can do this; I've just got to do it, if that makes any sense. Somehow somebody-I-used-to-know from that left hanging Gingerbread Man post made me flounder through the muskeg and start dealing with everything. And now I'm on my way. I'm counting on you and Ron to keep me on the path ~ especially if I get boring! Call me out, please have a good one, my friend!. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. As someone who is learning Japanese slowly, I can say the further a language is from your native tongue the harder it is to master it.

  6. You are so right, Adam! And kuddos to you for tackling such a challenging, but fascinating language. And of course, in the process, you'll learn a lot about its culture too! Enjoy your weekend!

  7. What an adventure! The old photographs are wonderful.

  8. Thanks, Michelle! It WAS an adventure. Have a good one!

  9. How exciting, Louise! What an incredible adventure. Your family history has some amazing memories in it. I'm looking forward to more of these posts. I laughed out loud imagining a swarm of children running inside!

    1. Hi Martha! Yes, we had some adventures! I'm in the swing of posting about the North on Fridays. We're up in Breckenridge in the mountains now, and the aspen leaves are glorious. I hope that ou are enjoying your weekend!

  10. Oh my goodness, how much I miss when I don't find a way to visit your blog. It is rich with adventure! I hadn't realized anything of your father's history.. will have to go back to try to find when that thread began, but no time this afternoon. This was fascinating. Hoping to find a picture of your father here that I'm sure I must have missed. The one of the fellow on top of the plane was amazing. I'll be back...

    1. Thanks for the encouraging comment, Carol! I'm slowly getting my act together working on my memoir. I'm going to go back and label the northern posts. I hope you are having a lovely weekend.

  11. Hi Louise, its Barb - Wow, you have me hooked with these blogs about Dad's adventures in the North - I'm holding my breath - and I know the basics of the stories. KEEP IT UP ;)

  12. Hey, Barb! I'm finally on a roll! I'm really having fun with them, although sometimes there are sad things. I put a label underneath the IWSG badge on the upper right. It keeps track of how many there all and pulls them all up. Thanks for the encouragement!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.