The Canadian years, ice fishing 9

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Sunday 02 November 20:06


the Bowriver


The Bow river meanders through Calgary and on its way,  it is sometimes shallow and widening and then deeply concentrated, with rapids creeping down on its way from the Bow Glacier, which is melting from the Rocky mountains, it fills the lower distant section, to the East Coast of Canada to pour into the Hudsonbay. The part of 'alone' the first 573 kilometers is known as the Bow river. It is like  a pearl necklace of incomparable beauty, filling  in antiquity, small valleys with the clear glass melting water before on the other side of the valley bowl, it spills out, to continue its way. These valleys are beautiful unspoiled melt water lakes. Lake Louise, in Banff is one example, but there is also lake Minnewanka. The Kananaskis area with its river and lakes are also children of this primeval river. Furthermore, other streams from the mountains join her and in Saskatchewan, she gives birth to an arm that is immense and a river in her own right, and goes through Saskatchewan under the name.'South Saskatchewan river, its waters mingle on her passage through lake Winnipeg to reach via the Nelson River, the  East Coast.


A 'bow' is a corner or bend, but that's not where the name came from.  Indians in Canada, are not called ‘Indians’, like in the United States, but they are treated with more respect and in Canada' the term for this ancient people is, ‘first nations peoples', always in the plural. Indian in Canada is as negative a term given in the order of magnitude as nigger for negro. They inhabited the area since time immemorial and the first nations peoples who lived in the area of Calgary 10 000 years before Christ, in that pinprick in time around Calgary were called the Peigan tribe. They named the river 'Makhabn", which, means river where cane grows. What made the reeds so well than? It was a twig like reed found only in that valley and it was ideal for making bows. Arrows can always be fabricated, but arcs must meet preconditions. Flexibility and strength. The shooting of the arrow made ​​by the transference power of the stretched woods returning to its original position. The string keeps the arc tense. You can always make strings and arrows, but the wood of a bow is special, you can not make an arc of any branch.



The Peigan tribe was a tribe of hunters and a good bow belonged to the survival package. The river was named after the bow and arrows, the arrows of these first nations peoples and arches. We walked down the street and found a declining street and then you’d come across the river, you couldn’t not miss it, Water seeks the lowest point. We crossed a busy thoroughfare which was called blackfoot trail. Canadians have the names of the first nations peoples and culture conveyed in as much data as possible and in place names, street names and lakes, You come across the references to the old Canada and its people again and again, this is how they are honored and they live on.

‘Ha,’ my brother said, as we crossed the blackfoot Indian trail. ‘All with filthy feet’. I looked bewildered at him. Did he mean that? ‘You have read the Winnetou books, haven’t you,’ I said. ‘Why,’ he asked suspiciously? ‘Why would one tribe have blacker feet than the other and then name themselves so, to shame themselves,’ I asked? ‘I do not know,’ he said, and so it was, he read and did nothing with what he had read, but I was wise enough to not say that.’ I suppose,’ he said,’ that they were seen as a bunch of a dirty swine among the Indians ‘.. he guessed.

‘No,’ I said, ‘it was a great tribe that populated all of Middle America but they had one specialty which distinguished themselves from other tribes.’ ‘Oh’, my brother said, not particularly interested, as he raised a brow. ‘I can guess’, he said. ‘They do not wash their feet.’ ‘Do not be silly, ‘I said, ‘do you want to know or not?’ I'll have to listen, I suppose, I can’t silence you,’ said  my brother, chuckling away. Every day you seem more like Pa’. There  was something ugly in that, but I could not put my finger on it. Something that I shared, something with dad, that he would never have. He was jealous, that was it. He wanted to be like my father and have total control over his environment, he didn’t have that grip on me and he began to realize that. Speaking slowly I started, ‘they were masters in leather processing. And they were adept at making a better moccasin. They hardened the soles of the leather by walking over hot ashes, that scorched the soles and gave them a dark color.’ That was it’ my brother said?’ Well interesting, anyway.’ ‘Their name was in reality Niitsítapi.’ ‘You,’ my brother said, ‘are impaired, you involve yourself with useless crap and  so he shut that part of the conversation off.


‘Look,’ he said, ‘there is something going on there, let’s go and have a look that is better than Niitppa Dingens I do not know what bloody tribe’. The river was frozen solid and some men were sitting on it, warmly dressed, with hats and thick scarves, around a hole. Behind them a fire, burning on the ice! At times a few went to stand by the fire.

We walked along the reeds and past some stacked up ice, along some ice over the smooth plain. As we got closer we saw that they were fishing. The men had thermos bottles with him, and a plastic garbage bag full of fish. We had never seen anything like it before. ‘Hey,’ said one of the men, ‘not too close to the hole, then they see your shadow.’ We stepped back. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be at school, little shit’ said one of the men not unfriendly but with the typical prairie indifference. ‘No, we just moved here yesterday’, I explained. ‘Where are you from,’ another asked? ‘Europe’, my brother said. ‘My mother also came from  Ah, the old country’ laughed one of them. ‘Well, ever seen something like this before?’ ‘No,’ I said honestly.’ If you're ever going to do this, never on your own, huh?’ The first speaker looked earnestly at us. If you are sagging and you are alone then they’ll find you back in spring, when you come floating back up..



‘How do you make those holes,’ I asked?’ I have a drill with a battery,’ said the friendly man with the European parents. ‘Watch that man chopping with a pickaxe. It also works, but you must be very careful not to go into the lumber. Moreover,  pickaxing makes jerky waves under the ice.’ ‘This’ and he kept a kind of super large awl-like drill up, makes a neat hole’ ‘You do not use bait,’ I said. ‘You do not have to,’ he laughed and they all shook their heads over the lack of even so little  knowledge. ‘There is such a lack of oxygen under the ice, that if you make your hole and wait them out, they almost come jumping out of the holes.’ I could see he was right each time one of the hooks disappeared in the hole, it came again out with a fish on it. ‘They bite on everything now,’ said the man at the fire. It is not difficult. You should never go alone, you need to stay warm and bring a plastic bag’.’ Place them on the ice and they freeze immediately on to it’.’ We’re going again’ my brother said.’ Us as well, ‘the men said, ‘we have enough fish for a week’. ‘Where do you come to if you continue to follow the river’ and I motioned ahead of me. ‘You should not do that, take some good advice, don’t go there’.


‘Then you come to a dam, Bearspaw dam, you can see why it is called Bearspaw?’ A little further is bear valley, they ought to be in winter sleep now, it being winter, but you do not want to disturb them.’ I nodded,’they give that name for a good reason I suppose.’ Like there’, the man pointed in another direction, the hills, first you come to Paskapoo hill and then something called cougar ridge, that name was not chosen for nothing, they probably don’t harm people, but why take the risk’ ‘Right,’ my brother said,’ we're going to drink a coke and he pointed at a bar. ‘It is much wiser laughed the man, see you boys around .. In what kind of country had we ended up? 

San Daniel 2014

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