Here’s another late post, visited the Huron-Wendake first nation village outside Quebec City on 2nd July and had an amazing experience. Part of the delay has been not really knowing just how to write about it.
We arrived in the rain and quickly joined the next English language tour. I suspect we were the only native English speakers in the group of Chinese, Spanish and other tourist nations. As our group coalesced I felt a little like a duckling floated forward, encouraged along by the gentle beat of mother duck’s wings, zhushed into the longhouse for a welcome dance. The Wendake people are not nomadic and so their buildings are permanent structures. Longhouses, we were told could house up to 40 people under the management of a matriarch. They are a matrilocal people and the women would select the male leader of the community.
These are my photos from inside the longhouse of the welcome dance:
The elders would sleep on the floor, under the level of the worst of the smoke. Younger people would live on the mid layer, the top layer being for storage. The people ate 80% vegetables, with agriculture dominated by the “three sisters”: corn, beans and squash. Seeds were planted in small mounds above the ground so the people did not penetrate mother earth.
Then our guide took us around the village. First to a tepee to illustrate the material diversity of the First Nations people’s cultures – as farmers the Wendake did not use tepee they stayed in one location in permanent housing. They had four major families, but did not carve totem poles. We saw the traditional ways of drying food for the winter, and the structure of a sweat house. In one building we were introduced to the Wendake beliefs about illness and medicine. We were taught about dream catchers and medicine rings. We sat in pine “canoes” and learned about travelling through the land. And we ate the most incredible traditional meal – I have the french of the recipe for sunflower and rice soup. It was just incredible so I will have to work it out.
The tour finished and it was time to move inside to hear traditional Wendake music and see a traditional dance performance by today’s Wendake youth. The performance started with a purification/ welcome smoking ceremony, where the room was cleansed, and then each of us was purified and opened to hear the spirits. Then the young people danced…
By then the sun had emerged and it was time to visit the gift store (and remember I’m a poor student) before leaving. It was a really special day.