Friday, September 19, 2014

The Trapper's Cabin. Who was the Trapper?

A sentinel at the entrance to West Narrows. Photo by Jane Bechtel
He was Frank Paishk, an Ojibwe man who, I believe, was born on this exact spot along with his brother, Adam, and sister, Mary. I only knew Frank and Adam.
Frank made firewood out of a couple of old cabins on the site, using a bucksaw. He cut the logs for the current cabin from trees in Muskrat Bay and pulled them, one at a time, behind his canoe. This was in the early 1960s.
Old Bill Stupack, the man who first built Bow Narrows Camp in 1948, always called the spot the Indian Village. That, plus the fact there was originally more than one cabin here and some things my father, Don, told me makes me believe that The Trapper's Cabin was once a community. It is marked on our camp map as a historic site.
The Ojibwe people that used to live here and who guided for my father were all born at this end of the lake. Tony and Ed Paishk told us they were born on the north shore of Pipestone Bay. Joe Keesic was born on the big island in Pipestone near the entrance to the narrows. Jimmy Duck was born in Muskrat Bay.
Old Jim Paishk, I believe, was also born in Pipestone. There are graves of two children near the Trapper's Cabin, and I have been told at least one of them was the child of Old Jim.
All these people are dead now and the only surviving artifact of their existence is the Trapper's Cabin.
It is difficult to know or explain the relationship between the men we knew since it is Ojibwe tradition to refer to just about everybody outside of their immediate family as cousins. Old Jim, however, was called Uncle. He was the only carver of soapstone pipes that I ever knew.
I wish I had known these men's Anishinaabe names as these are how Ojibwe people today would remember them. Old Jim was known in town as Peepsite. That nickname came from an incident when Jim mistook his dad's black hat for a moose and shot at it with a rifle. The bullet went through the hat, right above his dad's head. It scared Jim so badly that he never shot a gun again.
Frank Paishk, the trapper, was called Haywire in town.  That was because of his oddball behaviour when he drank. He would often, as he walked down a street, mimic the motions of a bush pilot flying a floatplane. Frank had a split personality, however. Out in the bush where there was no booze he was as silent and as wise as an owl and was probably the best woodsman I ever met.
None of us who knew and cared about these men ever called them by their nicknames.
Paishk is Ojibwe for nighthawk, a seldom-seen night bird. Every couple of years I see a half dozen nighthawks flying in the evening sky and I get the feeling that the Paishks that I knew are with me again.
All of these men were trappers. That is what they did in the winter. Many of them would spend part of their winter with Frank in the Cabin. They were the last to live this lifestyle. The Trapper's Cabin is a monument to them and to all the others who used to live here.
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Anonymous said...

Is that the cabin at the entrance to the narrows just before you get to camp coming from town?
Joe O.

Dan Baughman said...

That's right.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Dan. Thanks for the history lesson. It's always nice to learn things about Red Lake and the people that lived there. We will all have better respect the next time we pass by the "Trappers Cabin".

milt said...

I remember Frank.He had trails cut all through the woods. One that came over across from you camp so he could come and visit. You had that picture of him sitting on the stairs in cabin 10.
Adam was missed by the guys in our group he was with you a lot of years. I recall driving around Red Lake with Don in the fall looking for Adam.
Then there was that Frenchman and his Indian sidekick who lived in one one the mines off Golden arm .
One fall Mark Hierl and myself were served tea by the two gentleman. Did they have the junk piled around there.