Friday, November 20, 2009

the feathers at Windigoostigwan

These are some of the feathers that were at my feet when I stopped at Windigoostigwan Lake on my way to Fort Frances 2 weekends ago. On the shore of this captivating lake by the highway, when you pull in, on the large rock, the open face of the Canadian Shield, as I wrote earlier, you will notice feathers scattered all about the landscape. They blow away in the wind as you stand there incredulous at this soft fluffiness scuttling about the hard rocks. Spread along the rocks, the feathers are also caught in low shrubs and hang from branches; some fly off to the lake and float off. Because it is open, this space allows Raven, Crow and Eagle an unfetterred place to tear apart their prey, where they can see if anyone flies in or slunks by to try and disturb them. I'm sure Crow was watching me, wondering what I was up to at his spot as I stooped and collected some of the feathers. I thought my sister, Della, might like some for her faeries of flotsam. Of course, these feathers would be imbued with a particular power having come from a particular place. They are not just feather commodities like the ones we saw bagged and tagged and tacked on the wall of D&R Sports in the hunting section. The feathers from Windigoostigwan are not for-sale-feathers.

Windigoostigwan Lake is the place where the old Dawson Trail, hacked through the bush in the 1800s to send colonial troops to what was called the Red River Rebellion, turned northwest, rather than continue due west where a lot of rivers and lakes would've made their project even more difficult. When the railway was eventually hacked through the bush, built to cut across to the new settlements of Atikokan and Fort Frances and westward and to join with the American line, the old Dawson Trail returned to the bush. The forest ate it. Perhaps remnants of it lie hidden in the bush here and there. Windigoostigwan means "something about the head of the Windigo", not the head of the Windigo. The Windigo is half human/half something else, a cannibal being. Some Anishnawbek won't even let the word windigo pass their lips.

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