Thursday, June 10, 2021

On The Trapline

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children, Early Childhood. Education, Culture, Society, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Nature

Ed Hessler 

I had a muskrat trapline when I was a high school student. Before and after school, no matter what the wind was blowing up,  I "ran" the line, checked the traps, reset them if necessary (moved them sometimes), and at night I'd skin the 'rats and stretch them for drying. Sometimes when I was in the field, I'd bump into real professional trappers who put up with me mostly. Our exchanges were quick hellos or a head nod, an acknowledgement that there we were and that they would prefer I wasn't.

I carried my supplies--traps, extra nametags, hatchet--and dead rats in an old Adirondack Pack Basket, not as elegant as those pictured. It belonged to my Grandfather and had seen a fair amount of use during deer season.  I made my own nametags pounding out each, a letter at a time with name and address and then boiled them and new traps in water infused with sumac.When necessary I wore old fashioned snowshoes that were longer than I was tall. Cumbersome at fences which were everywhere.

A beautifully told and wonderfully illustrated new book about a little boy and his grandfather reminded me of those days. On the Trapline is by David A. Robertson, a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and illustrated by Julie Flett, a Swampy Cree and Red River Metis. This is not their first collaboration  But for both of them, this was the last book that they could show their fathers who died near the end of the project.

The book is reviewed by NPR's Samantha Blaban--print and listen--and includes some of the illustrations which I found simply perfect--the words and illustrations inform the other. Blabon remarks that along the way Swampy Cree words are used, e.g., Moshon means Grandfather, wanawi is the word for "go outside."

Robertson told Blaban that he "thought it's important that people recognize that it's still a way of life to a lot of indigenous people. And it's an important and vibrant way of life." He also emphasized to her that it is a "gentle book one that helps to dispel stereotypes and myths about life in an indigenous community, and to educate readers."

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