Friday, March 20, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Lessons with Father Ouimet

It's Friday ~ and time to share 
more of my father's tales 
of life in the northern Ontario bush 
from over fifty years ago.

During my father's time in Lansdowne House,
he studied the Ojibway language 
with Father Maurice Ouimet,
the Roman Catholic priest
in the community.

My mother Sara specifically
asked my father to share 
his Ojibway lessons with our family.
Mom had great curiosity
and an intense desire to learn
which she instilled in all of her children.

My Parents at Acadia University

My mother was the first in her family
to attend university,
and she had the opportunity to go
because of her service in the Royal Canadian Air Force
during world War II.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 13, 1960 
My father wrote:

Hi There:
I just had another session with the Father. 
I have gotten a few more words of Ojibway for you, 
so here we go on the weekly language lesson.

Father Ouimet with My Father, Don MacBeath
Lansdowne House,  Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Here are the words:
Tikinogan--------------------------Thing that Indian mothers carry their children in

Josephine Beaver with Baby in Tikinogan
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Ka Pimisemakaka-----------------Airplane 
(literally something flying, something inanimate, 
to distinguish it from a bird)

Iskotens-----------------------------Match (little fire)
Iskote Otaban----------------------Train (fire wagon)

Iskote Otaban ~ Fire Wagon
Train Station in Oba
Algoma Central Railway
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Iskotewaba-------------------------Any hard liquor 
(The literal translation is fire liquid, 
or as the white man has called it---fire water.)

Waba--------------------------------This word, 
if attached to any noun, means the liquid of that thing; 
for instance, Moosewaba means the liquid or blood of the moose.
It can also mean the gravy, if the moose is cooked.  
This word has no meaning by itself.


Assema------------------------------Pipe tobacco

Kitche Mokoman------------------American 
(Literally big knife; 
didn’t the southern Indians call Americans long knives?)

(and any other white man, 
except Americans or Frenchman)


Wemetigoshi ~ Frenchman/Coureur des Bois
Photo:  Paul Provencher

Now I want to give you a few colors; 
but first, I should explain that 
Ojibway has different colour words 
when they describe inanimate and animate objects.  

So here we go:
Colour Inanimate Animate
Black Makate Makatisi
Blue Osawashkwa Osawaskisi
Green Osawaska Osawisi
(and brown)  Osawa Osawisi   
Red Meskwa Meskwisi
White Wabak Wabisi

Well, I hope I haven’t bored you all.  
I include these words at the special request of Sara.  

Besides, it does fill up space, 
and sometimes I am hard put to do this.  
After all, I don’t have the good fortune 
every day to watch Indians migrate or to fall in the lake.

I am still laid up with the flu, etc., 
and I won’t be going back to school till Monday.  

Mike Flaherty, the nurse, 
doesn’t want me to take any chances 
and have it develop into anything more serious.  

Today I had a slight temperature, 
but Mike was over and gave me some medicine to take.

Well, exactly one month ago today, 
I arrived at Lansdowne House 
in the middle of a snowstorm.  
It was as cold as hell.  
Today it rained all day and was quite mild.  

All the oldtimers up here predict 
that freeze-up will start within two or three weeks’ time.  

Last year, the Father walked on the ice 
from the Island to the mainland on October 10, 
but it takes a lot more ice to support an airplane, 
than to support a priest, 
especially a small one like the Father.

Freeze-up November 15 2014 at dusk
Freeze-up on a Northern Lake
flickr ~ dmffryed  

As I have said many times in the past, 

freeze-up takes from three to five weeks, 
and during that time no mail will come in or go out.  
So Sara, please try to get the typewriter 
up to me before freeze-up.  
The portable that is.

I guess that winds it up for another week.  
Will be starting another Lansdowne Letter tomorrow.  
If anyone has any ideas for 
making this more interesting, 
let me know, and I will try 
to incorporate the ideas in the letter.  
Well, bye for this week.

Lots of love to you all

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Note:  It's been a 
to blog from my hotel lobby!
I gave up visiting blogs on my vacation
after falling hopelessly behind.
Next Friday I'll be back in Colorado,
and I'll start visiting again.
Thanks for your understanding!


  1. Another interesting letter! And hey, you're on VACATION -- that means a vacation from blogging and reading blogs too! Don't be hard on yourself!

    1. Thanks, Debra! If I had more Pat Hat in me, I'd have the next two years of blog posts already written! LOL! I at least had them partially done through the first week in April! I'm slowly learning! I just got back from a gorgeous walk along the beach. It's truly paradise! Have a great weekend!

  2. That is a lot of words to take in in that one. Moose blood tough, eww lol poor moose. Enjoying the sun and sand, how dare you lol

    1. LOL! Once I get home, I'm determined to get a real jump on blog posts. You are my inspiration! I loved the moose stuff ~ blood or gravy, alive or cooked! Have a great weekend!

  3. Your Dad , what a wonderful man and Dad, those letters must have been so welcome ... enjoy those last days of wonderful sunshine and sand, have you learnt that language too, or did you those years ago?

    1. Hi NJ! I am loving every minute of twos fabulous weather. Our first two weeks here were very cold for Hawaii, but it is now gloriously back to normal! I'm happy to be absorbing a lot of vitamin D! I didn't learn much Ojibway. Dad insisted that we speak with the Indian kids in English, so they could hear and practice it. When we lived at the Indian fish camp on Lac Seul, Fritz and John refused to speak Ojibway, and their mother refused to speak English. So English it was! Have a lovely weekend!

  4. I know you are having a great vacation and appreciate that you didn't let us down with our Friday soap opera. Have a great time in the sun.

    1. Hi Peggy! We are having a blast! I was determined not to let my blog friends down while I was on this trip. I did manage to get a rough text done for each one, but that's the easy part! Have a wonderful weekend. I know you continue to be hammered by winter. Take care!

  5. Oh my!! That's so cool your dad learnt the language and how interesting about the differing colour words!! I love these letters x

    1. Hi Kezzie! I thought that the animate/inanimate color words were the most interesting thing in my Dad's letter. It's also neat to see how the Ojibwa created new words as they became more and more exposed to the outside. Happy weekend to you! x

  6. Louise, another great letter, and I love all the photos you are sharing. I miss the old trains...and I also miss the way people used to dress back in the 1940's or so. I always love your posts, as you know, your blog is like a breath of fresh air. Thank you! :)

  7. Thanks, Linda! Your kind comment lifted my spirits! Have a lovely weekend, my Montreal friend!

  8. Oh my, I find this FASCINATING! I love his explanation...what they carry their children in...and then, you show us a photo of it too, that is amazing!
    And they have different words for colours I animate or inanimate that is very interesting to me.
    Thanks again for sharing these letters from your Dad. You must be so proud of him (and your Mom too!)

    1. Hi Kay! Thanks! I am proud of my dad, and I feel very close to him when I work with his letters! Have a wonderful Sunday! XOX!

  9. amazing..1960 ..I was 16 and got married that July..your dad

    1. Thanks, Jackiesue! Married at 16 ~ or maybe 17 ~ Wow! I was 10 in 1960 ~ seems like forever, and seems like a moment ago! Thanks for reading my posts!

  10. Wow, that photo of your parents is just heavenly! I love how there are different words for colors depending on whether it's an animate or inanimate object. So cool! Thanks, as always, for sharing and safe travels!!! XOXO

    1. Thanks, Audrey! My parents look so grown up compared to when I went to Acadia. then it was blue jeans and US army jackets! Not that I had one, just the blue jeans! Happy Sunday to your beautiful family and you! XOXO!

  11. I love all these posts, Louise. What an exciting part of your family's history this was. And don't worry about blog/blog reading. When I'm on vacation (or even just away from home) I have no internet connection (ever!); not even a phone with such features. I disconnect completely!

    1. Thanks, Martha! Especially for understanding! I'm so glad that you enjoy these posts! Have a wonderful, Sunday!

  12. No boredom. You were teaching as your father did. I like his pose in the first picture.

    1. Hi Peaches! I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner, but I was on vacation, and simply couldn't stay on top of the blogging world from my crowded hotel lobby. Hope all is well with you!

  13. Now that language is one to learn and study. But I did notice a few patterns that seem consistent enough.
    What a truly life-changing experience this was for your family, Louise. Your parents were so smart/intuitive to know this would be so good for all of hard as it was at times.
    Now get back to that beach!! lol

    1. As you can see from the date of this reply, Jim, I did get back to the beach. Honolulu had a long and uncharacteristically long cold snap, with some rain and a lot of wind. It was too cold to more than dip in the water. And then it did get lovely and warm and sunny during the last 8 or 9 days. All I wanted to do was get in the water! Now I'm home and playing catch-up again! I'm working forwards from my older posts to make sure that I answer all my comments. Have a wonderful weekend. Even though I haven't been getting around, I think of you, Ron, and Sophie all the time! Take care!


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