Tagging Along in Kasabonika

By Sara Mai Chitty, Community Journalism Trainer

Rosaline is always up to something cool. When I first arrived in Kasabonika, she was cooking at the hotel I was staying at. One night, walleye was on the menu.

I watched Rosaline clean three fish, which she had caught in a net earlier that day, and I asked if I could tag along sometime when she goes out.

A week or so later, as I am eating dinner, she came running into the dining room.

“You want to go? Then come now!” she said, and off we went.

That night was tons of fun, seeing how fishnets are set, checking out the Old Settlement and catching a little tiny northern pike, the first fish I’d caught in years.

Kasabonika’s Old Settlement still has some existing structures, a graveyard and by the looks of it in late July, has an amazing strawberry harvest earlier in the season.

Old Settlement
Old Settlement

Chris, Rosaline’s fishing partner, said there’s a lot of mystery surrounding how and why exactly the people of Kasabonika resettled. It’s a theme that has constantly come up since I came to Kasabonika and a lot of people seem curious about it, and I know it would make a great story. All I need are some trainees.

The next time I asked Rosaline about tagging along, she was partridge hunting. Fall is the only time of year you can hunt them, she explained to me. There are three different kinds of grouse that roam around Kasabonika, and some are faster than others, she said. Rosaline described them by colour, speed and their names in the language. Later I found out they are also known as spruce and ruffed grouse, and ptarmigan.

Rosaline was equipped with a small machete to cut branches, and a slingshot. The slingshot is used to stun the bird, and then you wring its neck afterwards.

We wandered around the bush for a while, and as soon as we decided to go scout out somewhere else, a spruce grouse popped up to say hi.

Rosaline hit him, but he wasn’t stunned and just ran away. So we split up to try to find him.

I had just about given up following the direction I had been going, when I saw him. I tried to get Rosaline’s attention because she had the slingshot, and started chasing him towards her, only to lose him again.

When Rosaline finally caught him, I snapped a picture.

Rosaline with the partridge she caught.
Rosaline with the partridge she caught.

Looking at his face while she was wringing his neck definitely tore at my heartstrings a bit, but, a girl’s gotta eat!

“You’re so badass, Rosaline,” I told her. She laughed, then pointed in another direction.

“Let’s go see if there’s more over there,” she said.

As we were walking over she was plucking the feathers. I asked for one to keep as a memento, and she handed me the tail feathers, which are drying on my dresser as I write this. It freaked me out because they were still warm. A puppy picked up the scent, and came to play in the feathers as Rosaline tossed them on the ground. Running around looking for grouse was the most fun I’d had since coming to Kasabonika, alongside blueberry picking with the Anderson/Morris family. My friend Camelia had mentioned they were going, and we had lots of laughs squatting in the bush, in awe of the blueberry bounty in front of us.

Fresh wild blueberries I picked.
Fresh wild blueberries I picked.

I am incredibly grateful for people like Rosaline and Camelia, and many others in Kas who have let me tag along when they go canoeing, or fishing, or to gatherings, weddings and boat rides.
As Rosaline and I roamed the lakeshore, searching for maybe just one bird, she told me when people are out in the cold, and lost, drinking partridge blood is a survival technique. I’ve been spending more time learning in Kas, than I have teaching so far it seems, but I am eager to learn.

We didn’t end up finding another one, and it soon became too dark to see.

We headed back for the night and I thanked Rosaline for letting me tag along, once again.

Next time, she said, she’d bring me an extra slingshot.

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