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Brief Reviews - Non-fiction
by Helen Porter

IN THE "Household Chores" section of Our Grandmothers' Lives As Told in Their Own Words (Fifth House, 408 pages, $24.95 paper), a fine collection of interviews with Cree grandmothers edited and translated by Freda Ahenakew and H. C. Wolfart, Irene Calliou has this to say:

Every time my grandfather killed them [the ducks] we as children used to help ... cleaning the guts and roasting them on the fire. And also the stuff inside a moose, they also used to clean that .... they used to make use of everything and we ate it.

That statement recalled to me the families of Newfoundland's much maligned sealers. In the old days they had to use up everyting if they didn't want to starve to death. In the "Daily Life" chapter of this book, Glecia Bear tells what childbirth was like in her mother's time: "We would simply go off into the bush, giving birth to the children there .... and be midwives to ourselves....the children had no sooner been born than we were back at work." Freda Ahenakew, herself a Cree grandmother, conducted extensive interviews with seven Cree women who often referred back to the time of their own grandmothers. The women's reminiscences were recorded in their own tongue; "they were not forced to use a foreign language," as H. C. Wolfart says in his introduction. The stories are presented in the original Cree with English translations on facing pages, and also in Cree syllabics. The result is a valuable addition to Canadian literature.


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