“It was many moons ago, in the middle of winter, that I arrived at that god-forsaken reservation of the Montagnais and Naskapis Indians (one no longer says “Indians” but “First Nations” if we want to be politically correct!) of Labrador, all the way north of Quebec at the top of the map, where I did more than rub shoulders with the beautiful, zaftig, carpenter: Anna, to realize my secret dream of fishing the famous OUANANICHES, the fresh water salmons that haunt the lakes of that region and my insomniac nights.
The old indian woman who made my special “great cold” Caribou skin moccasins, assured me: “Especially for you, the frenchman from France, the best fisherman in all of Schefferville will take you fishing for Ouananiches. It will be great fun for you, chalice of chalice!”
(Since that time I have learned that the origin of the indian work “Ouananiche” means “the little one that lost himself in fresh water instead of the ocean. Lovely, it it not?” I still don’t know what “chalice of chalice” is all about.)
To make a long story short, every day that passed I asked, with shades of growing impatience in my voice…”And where does he hide, this King of fishmen?”
“He’s at Chicoutimi visiting his aunt.” “He’s in seven islands on business.”.” “He’s at Fort Chimo to buy some tobacco comic/”
It wasn’t until the last day of the visit with my marvelous amerindian friends (it is politically correct to say that), that I learned the truth.
Each time that the “number one” fisherman of the tribe knew that I was around, he hid under the bed and played the “invisible man”, deathly afraid that he would run into the damned “frenchman from France” and have to take him fishing in the frozen lakes where the temperatures were 30° below zero (and when the blizzard blows, the wind-chill factor brings spirals it down a lot lower!)
I returned to Paris royally frustrated because of the unfinished story of the Ouananiches.
And then, just last week, my friend Pierrette D. in Quebec sent me article from a Montreal journal. It reported that these bloody fish reproduce like rabbits in fresh water and have overpopulated the lakes; fishermen not only have the right, but the obligation to take any number of fish to re-establish an equilibrium… and the cherry on the cake is that they are bloody damed good to eat.
And voila! it starts all over again. I’ll have to attack the bank to buy my tickets for another trip to Labrador.
Anna, my lovely Montagnaise friend, First Nation, my First Woman of the tribe at Shefferville, get ready: here I come!