The durable white spruce was used in tents, drying racks, baskets, and even canoes! The sticky gum inside also doubled as a sort of chewable toothpaste. These giant coniferous trees (cone-bearing) can grow up to 40 metres tall, but average a height of around 18 metres, with a trunk diameter of about 1 metre.
In the Pic River First Nation, look for white spruce growing along north-facing slopes in river valleys and ravines. These cooler areas typically retain moisture in their soil better, which is where white spruce tend to grow.
According to legend, it is because of the raven that humans have light, fish, and water. To get rid of all of the darkness in the beginning, raven flapped his wings as hard as it could, sending the darkness down into the ground. Even though people now had light, they did not have a very good diet. Raven dropped the leaves of an alder tree into a pool, which sucked up the leaves and produced plenty of fish. But now the people were thirsty, and getting water for the humans was a bit trickier. All of the fresh water in the world was guarded by Ganook. Raven paid a visit to Ganook and after a while asked for a drink of water. Ganook agreed to give him a little bit of water, but raven wanted it all. So Raven began telling an extremely boring story to Ganook so that he started to fall asleep. Just as he nodded off, Raven scooped up all the water and flew away.
Ganook woke up instantly and started yelling at Raven. As Raven escaped up Ganook’s chimney, he was stuck at the top, too swollen from all of the water. Ganook lit a fire and the smoke started burning Raven as he struggled. Eventually, Raven got free and flew off to give the people water. But to this day, Raven’s feathers remain charred black. You are likely to see ravens nearly everywhere in the Pic River First Nation. They belong to the same family as crows, jays, and magpies. They are the only large, all-black bird that lives year-round in colder climates.
If you see white-tailed deer running, you will be amazed at how fast they go and how high they can bound. Deer are part of a healthy ecosystem, because they provide food for predators like wolves, bobcats and bears. The antlers of the male white-tailed deer have one main thick “branch” with individual smaller points called tines coming off the side.
When alarmed, White-tailed Deer raise their tails when they run. They wave it from side to side to show the white furry underside that probably acts as a danger signal to other deer. Particularly in traditional times, mushkawujibemiday, or deer fat/tallow, was very important as it formed the basis of the nutritious food known as pemmican.
When the first human twins were born, there was a problem. They were not walking or crawling. Nanabush consulted the Great Spirit and asked what he should do to help. He was told to gather as many coloured stones as he could and throw them up into the air. Once they were airborne, Nanabush noticed something remarkable: the stones were turning into beautiful winged butterflies.
When Nanabush walked back to the twins with the butterflies, the babies immediately started grasping at them. As they grew older, they continued to reach out to the butterflies, which eventually stretched out their legs enough to train them to walk. Canadian Tiger Swallowtails are beautiful butterflies are one of the largest and easily recognizable in Canada. The tails on the hind wings are what give the butterfly its name. The tails are forked in a similar way as certain little birds such as the barn swallow or the tree swallow.
In traditional stories of the Ojibway people, the cedar was given the duty to point people in the right direction, and to remind people to be mindful of the spirits. Cedar can also be used to produced a cleansing medicine. The white cedar, also known as the eastern cedar, is found in the Pic River First Nation.
It is actually a fairly small species of tree, reaching heights up about 15 metres. Cedar wood is incredibly dense and strong, which makes it very desirable as a long-lasting building material. They usually live to be about 200 years old, but there have been white cedar trees found growing in Ontario that are over 700!
These fuzzy pollinators buzz from flower to flower, carrying pollen and helping plants reproduce. We rely on bees to help grow the food we eat, so we really need to take care of them. They are declining in many parts of the world. If a bumble bee is buzzing around you, don’t flail around like mad! Just stand still so that it can determine that you are not a flower.
Once it realizes that you are a not a source of either pollen nor nectar, it will fly away. Legend has it that bees did not always possess stingers. They were given stingers in order to ward off people, who had become too greedy with consuming the bees’ honey. It had gotten so bad that people began tearing open the nests and killing most of the bees.
If you see fields or ditches filled with bright yellow flowers in late summer and fall, you may be seeing Canada goldenrod in bloom. The arching stems full of tiny yellow flowers make this plant, which grows from 20 to 200 cm in height, very easy to identify.
Bees are attracted to goldenrod later in the summer when many other flowers have already gone. Insects and spiders also hide in the thick foliage and flowers. It used to be used to help heal wounds after it was applied directly, and to treat a whole range of illnesses such as inflammation, diabetes, and arthritis.
The most common North American owl, these airborne predators glide silently through the night thanks to their specially adapted extra-quiet wing feathers. These large owls appear to have short pointed horns on top of their heads, but the reality is that these are just stiff feathers.
Like many owls, the great horned owl has a slightly concave (curved inwards) face to help funnel sound to its ears. They are often considered to be a symbol of wisdom. Some Ojibway medicine men would place a stuffed great horned owl nearby to keep watch over their work!
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