Interviewer: Stan Louttit
Eeyou Translator: Jason Coonishshish
Place: Moose Factory, Ontario
Stan Louttit: Could you please give us your names?
Charlie and Louise Etapp: Charlie Etapp. Louise Etapp.
SL: Charlie, how did you obtain your hunting drum and how did you use it?
CE: In the beginning I did not know any use for it, the sound of the drum. Our ancestors had a hard life. It was the same with me when I was younger. The families were looking for food. Food was scarce. They needed to find something to help them feed their family.
When the dream of a drum first came, I just made the rims [for the drum]. I started wrapping them. Then the drum was hung up in the family’s tent. After a while it was getting louder. And we started singing. We sang for those animals in order for them to give up their life.
I have seen many children grow up in my home. I felt sorry for them. I needed to find something so that I could feed them. There were elders living with me also. That is how it came about – the drum. Because God felt sorry for me, that is how I picked up the drum.
That is how the sounds came into the drum. When the sounds came I was able to sing songs about the land, songs about the animals. That was how I was able to feed my family. When I start beating the drum, the animals can hear me. The drum would go up and down in timbre. That is where I got confirmation because the Creator can hear my songs. As soon as the drum started moving, I knew that we would be fed.
After, many people started picking up the drum to be able to feed their families. After I would beat my drum in my tent, I would go out on the land and would walk to exactly where the animals were. It was given to me because he heard me sing. They were ready to give up their lives in order to feed my family. So as soon as I walked out, I would go right there and kill five or six moose in order to provide for the family.
There came a time that the drum would be so honoured, that there would be a feast. People would get up and sing and dance. That was how it was. It was honoured by the people because it provided us with food.
One time I went to see an elder and I noticed that he was beginning to be negative towards it. So he asked me if he could use my drum. I said: “Go ahead.” He started singing. After he stopped, he said: “You won’t see much for awhile.” I did not know what he meant and I was not upset because I already had it, a good relationship with the drum and the animals. Anything I would look for, I would find. He finished singing and my mother told me to pick up the drum and sing too. She did not like what the man had said to me. I started singing and he went out the door. When I finished I said: “I want to sing one more song and check into that.” And when I finished, I had a vision and there was an owl sitting on the tree. Then I had to stop singing because of the owl. When I stopped [the owl] said to me: “Watch where I land, what direction I am going.” When the bird told me, he was going to land, he was going to go very deep and make a path. That showed me I would be carrying something heavy.
When I left that morning at sunrise, I walked straight according to my visions. I wanted to go where I saw the bird first. When I got there, I recognized the tree where he had been sitting, and then I saw that path and I followed it. There were big trees there and I saw moose tracks, so I took out my gun. I loaded it up and I just moved a little bit. There were three moose standing there and I shot three times. I was given this power through the drum by the Creator and that is why I am telling you this.
I never beat the drum unless there is a reason and that is why. The drum helped the people a lot.
SL: Louise, how did you feel when you heard the drum and your husband would bring in the animals?
LE: I really loved and appreciated the sound of the drum.
CE: She really liked to hear them, but I only performed them when there was a need for food.
SL: What Charlie was saying about the people dancing in celebration of getting food, did you ever see that or experience it?
LE: I saw them singing and dancing around the stove.
SL: Did they have a name for that?
LE and CE: The oldest one in the group would be the leader as soon as the drum began. We would feel so happy.
SL: Would Louise feel that way to be dancing too?
LE: That is the way I felt before I became a Christian.
SL: How did you learn your skills to work around the tipi and everything?
LE: I knew he was a great hunter. I met him in Mistassini. I knew he was a great hunter and did not have a woman. I knew all the work and the teachings for a woman. That was how I was raised. I never went to school and I do not understand English. I only know our way.
SL: How did you learn those skills that you knew?
LE: I did not have a chance to learn from my mother because she passed on. My Dad remarried. My stepmother taught me everything. I would just observe her and how she did things.
SL: When you first lived with Charlie, was that the first time you heard the hunting drum?
LE: My dad carried the drum so I heard him when I was a child.
SL: Do you know anything about the songs he sang?
LE: Each elder carried different songs about the animals, caribou, moose, or whatever. That’s what they sang for.
SL: Do you know of anyone playing the drum besides a hunter?
LE: No. I never saw anyone else.
SL: When you were out in the bush with Charlie hunting, did you ever feel like singing?
LE: As soon as he would leave, I would take care of the inside, my children first. I would go out and chop wood, get fresh boughs, and make it look really clean. Then he would return.
SL: In the privacy of your own home, did you ever dance while he drummed? Was there any dancing in your home when you were a child with your mother or aunts?
LE: No. I did not see any because most of them had passed on.
SL: Where were you when you did see dancing in your youth?
LE: It was inland that I saw dancing, as I was not at the coast. I have seen Charlie’s mother dance.
SL: Could you describe what her dancing was like?
LE: She danced a round dance.
SL: Did that occur after they had killed an animal?
LE: They liked the vision so much that they had to dance before they went on the hunt.
SL: Was it just Charlie’s mother dancing or were there others?
LE: All of the old ladies at the campsite would come and dance while the men went off to hunt. They were already dancing to honour what they had seen.
* * *