In this episode of the Indigenous Brilliance Podcast, we celebrate the long awaited Issue 44.3 Indigenous Brilliance going to print (IN FULL COLOUR)! In honour of this special occasion for the Indigenous Brilliance team, co-host Karmella Benedito De Barros shares space with author and storyteller Crystal Harrison Collin for some storytelling and conversation. Just a taste of the brilliance you can find in Issue 44.3. Get your copy today! https://roommagazine.com/shop/indigenous-brilliance/
Crystal Harrison Collin is a Mother, Grandmother, writer, storyteller, student and community worker from Sioux Lookout Ontario. We are grateful to witness Crystal read her submission “Mishkikamiin” in celebration of our Issue 44.3 Indigenous Brilliance launch. Give it a listen, and get your copy of Issue 44.3 on the Room Magazine website shop page.
In this episode, Crystal shares her short story “Mishkikamiin”, which came to her in a dream. This story is one of community, ancestral connection, cultural reclamation and liberation told through the perspective of a shape shifting human/berry, who protects her community from dangerous giants. Crystal shares about building and maintaining a writing practice as a new writer and full time mother during the pandemic. As well, she shares about writing stories from dreams and writing as an extension of culture and traditional storytelling. This sharing of our stories is “good medicine, and reclamation of identity” as Indigenous people Crystal shares. She encourages all Indigenous people to find ways to share our stories and dreams.
A special shout and and congratulations to the Indigenous Brilliance team; Patricia Massy, Jessica Johns, jaye simpson, Emily Dundas Oke and Karmella Benedito De Barros! We hope you pick up a copy today! Link is below.
Check out the podcast on Soundcloud (more streaming platforms + transcription coming soon)…
Issue 44.3 Cover Art by Ocean Hyland, Podcast music by Edzi’u
Partial Transcription: Mishkikamiin by Crystal Harrison Collin
Our entire village was walking along a great winter trail. There were many of us. Men, women, youth, babies and Elders.
Women were wrapped in Hudson’s Bay wool blankets, the red and grey ones. The babies were carried in tikinagans on their mother’s backs, quietly cooing and babbling.
Men wore wool trousers, some with suspenders and heavy coats. We wore moccasins and some of us wore braids in our hair while some men wore wide-brimmed hats.
We came from somewhere, but I had no idea where we were travelling to. There was a sense of displacement and heaviness. I understood the language being spoken all around me. The language danced in and out and between us, quiet humour and laughter echoing above us, despite the heaviness. It was the kind of laughter you would hear at our summer gatherings.
I glanced to the left; a young child spoke to her grandmother as we trudged along.
“Soon…” the grandmother replied in the language, her eyes crinkling at the corners of her eyes.
Everyone was hungry but there was a sense of hope and determination that encompassed us. The hunger I felt hurt my entire body. I did not know if I was a child or a youth, but I walked alone. There was comfort in knowing the entirety of our tribe was my family.
Ahead was the mouth of a ravine. Each side had steep rocky hills with tall poplars, cedar and pine trees. Moss, small leafless branches and snow blanketed the forest floor. I heard a man ahead of me say it was midday, my belly rumbled. I wondered when we would all rest and eat.
It was at that moment the earth began to tremble. Some relatives at the front began to gasp and the men began to shout. I was nearly toppled over by one of my aunts as she ran past me, her infant began to cry at the sudden panic. I was confused with the commotion as I looked all around me.
“Get back!” someone shouted.
“Run!” I heard another yell.
A great giant was running toward us. I could not believe my eyes! I had only heard of giants in the stories the old ones would share. My body froze as everyone scattered about panicking, it was as if my feet grew roots and descended into the earth to keep me planted there forever.
The men became warriors as they ran fearlessly to the front. They would fight to the death and give their lives for their family, surely, I knew this.
The great giant had clothes on, but it was barefoot. Its hair was strewn about its face as it barreled through the ravine. I watched as men were swiped up and flung like tiny rag dolls. Their bodies broke against the forest trees with a sickening crunch.
My body trembled, I closed my eyes and knew we were all going to die. The quiet humour and laughter moments before, had turned into blood-curdling screams that haunted the forest and shook me to my core.
A voice suddenly said to me, “Run with all your might up that hill and jump onto a fallen branch.”
It did not make sense to me.
Jump onto a branch? But I am tired.
“Just do as I say…” the voice gently reassured me.
Without a second more, I ran with all my might up that steep hill until I could not run anymore. Out of breath, weak and shaking from hunger, I saw a fallen branch. I jumped onto this branch and landed with a “hmmph!”
The giant and I saw one another at the corner of our eyes but I suddenly disappeared before it could fully see me, like the flame of a candle when it is blown out. I became a berry on the fallen branch that I had jumped onto.
Through filmy red vision, I saw the giant come to a sudden halt.
“Did you see her?” its voice thundered. Two other giants looked in my direction but could not see me.
“We have to find her!”
“She is a shapeshifter! We will get her!”
The giants began tearing angrily at the hillside. Trees and earth went flying. I continued watching through the filmy skin of the berry. Relief set in as my family ran off, escaping from the great giants. I became afraid again as I imagined being torn apart by them.
The gentle voice said, “Do not be afraid. I love you and I will protect you.”
I continued watching the giants as they neared. One of them picked up a branch that was full of red winter berries.
“We will harvest these. Gather as many as you can!”
They forgot all about my people as they broke the branches and began gathering and eating the berries. My branch was lifted, and I realized I was heading to the inside of a giant’s mouth. The world became black as the giant consumed me.
There was another rumbling amidst the darkness. The great giant became poisoned.
I was no longer a berry but turned back into myself and stood where I was before I ran up that hill. The great giants began gasping, fighting to take their last breath as they fell dead to the ground. The earth shook.
The gentle voice spoke again. “Now go. You will catch up to them. You will prosper and so will your people…Mishkikamiin.”
I turned and ran. The pain, hunger, fear and weakness no longer existed. I felt exhilaration, relief and happiness! My hair was flowing along with the red wool blanket that I clutched at it, like a fancy shawl dancer, my knees nearly touched my chest, and my moccasins were pounding the ground as I ran to my people.
The ravine caved in from both sides, swallowing the giants forever.