Older woman enjoying her pipe. Pic by Kevin Hou.
M'Hoq Toq's voice is written this way.
Nel & Verena's voices are written like this.
[Greeting Verena] The unhappy smoker.
Verena: I am a happy smoker.
Humans were never supposed to smoke rubbish.
Tobacco is sacred.
If you went and got leaf-tips, or grass, even toxic plants to smoke it would be better than what you are smoking now.
Nel: M’hoq Toq?
What else may we offer?
Nel: I’ve been reading about the Mi’q Mak who live in the eastern side of what is today called Canada.
Nel: They had a very special relationship with the beaver.
Nel: They used to, I understand, put the skin of a beaver onto the grave of somebody who’s died.
What is it that you don’t understand about that?
Nel: I wondered if you had that cultural experience. It’s a beautiful skin that the beaver has.
Nel: The beaver was a brother to the people.
Nel: So it was to —
Nel: Accompany the spirit?
— the spirit. Make sure the spirit knows everything is well-covered, literally. And this is that little patch they can come back to.
Did you ever travel with those people?
Bit of warfare —
Nel: Oh. Which tribe were you with then?
South of the border.
Nel: So in the area that’s now called Maine? Or —
Nel: New York state?
You mean like New Amsterdam?
The area — yes, the greater part of it.
Nel: So that beautiful country was your home also?
Yes. Good resources. Herbs, wood. Good for hunting, good for collecting berries.
[Reflectively] Wonderful berries!
Wonderful hunting, too.
Nel: Did you hunt the beaver?
Nel: I’ve heard they were good eating.
Yes. That was part of the warfare. You’re not supposed to eat spirit animals. They were not spirit animals for us. We had them for nourishment because it is a fat meat. They did not understand. It’s sacred for them.
It was like hunting someone from the tribe.
They did hunt our deer, too, which we didn’t like either. So we thought that was fair, eating each others’ spirit animal. We tried to keep it in small numbers. We only took what we needed. So did they.
But sometimes you have spirits around and other people that feel encouraged to start warfare about these things. It was widely agreed that we could take what we needed at the time.
So yes, the beaver skin was a kind of a landing patch.
We could make tools out of the teeth as well.
Nel: So, did you use the skins in the same way in your tribe, as well?
We did not use it for that — not our custom.
We used the tail to keep tobacco in… after we had eaten.
Nel: Would make a nice pouch.
Yes. You had to treat it and dry it, wash it a lot — use some herbs to make it last. Otherwise it would have rotten away.
It used to be watertight, which was good for the tobacco.
Nel: So, Verena is going to get 5 different kinds of kinnikinnick from around the plains area.
Five of them?
Nel: Yes. Then she can try which ones suit her the best. And she’s got a little pipe coming, of pipestone.
[To Verena] It sounds like you have good experiences coming your way, my friend. I am sure you will enjoy it and you will find at least one that’s a very good match. One is the very good match and the other is the one you like!
Nel: Hmm, so she can get both.
Yes. It will take a little patience to get used to it.
Verena: Yeah, sure. That I believe — changing —
Yes. Old habits.
But be assured, it will be worth it.
The taste will be so much better. So will be the experience on a spiritual level and you will get new insights. You’ll have great experiences and it will be much healthier — than with the rubbish.
You don’t believe it. You say, ‘Okay’ in a way that shows me you don’t believe it.
Verena: When I get it in my hand, you know? When I see the pipe, when I smell the tobacco, I think it will be great.
Yes. That sounds better!