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Nature's Guardians

The following is based on information received and provided by Sally Milne, a Cree Elder, teacher, medicine woman and artist from La Ronge who strives to help Aboriginal people incorporate traditional ways into their modern lives.

In the vicinity of Lac La Ronge there's a lake that's said to be home to a benevolent group of little people known to the Woodland Cree as the Memekwesiw.

According to traditional knowledge, the Memekwesiw offer guidance on natural medicines and how to live life in harmony with Nature. They are said to be about the same height as two-year-old children, but are easily distinguishable from them because they have no noses. Memekwesiw in the La Ronge region are said to live in caves carved out of the rock near the lake's shoreline.

They can appear in dreams, during fasts, or even in physical form to persons whose hearts are pure. Their presence has been observed in miniature campsites discovered in the forest, or through materials they leave behind for people requesting their assistance.

Many Cree people of old looked to the Memekwesiw to supply them with natural herbs and medicines required to treat ailments. A man seeking medicinal help might place a small basket near the base of a tree, for example, and leave it there with a request that the Memekwesiw give him the herbs necessary to treat his condition. When the man returned the next day, the basket contained the appropriate medicine.

The Memekwesiw are said to live at a lake
in the La Ronge region.

One report tells of a young man on a trapline in the La Ronge district who awoke from a sleep to see two Memekwesiw peering at him through a window of his cabin. One appeared to be male, the other female, and both had curly black hair and no noses. They were wearing clothes made of fur and leather that appeared to be from a bygone era. Twice afterwards, the Memekwesiw appeared to the young man in his dreams and told him of medicine.

There are some who believe the Memekwesiw currently are making their presence known to a growing number of Cree people. This is happening, they say, because the little people have dire concerns over the fate of the environment.

La Ronge band Elder Sally Milne was raised in the traditional way on a trapline, where she learned protection of the environment through lifestyle. It was taken for granted that people used only what they needed and they offered thanks to what they took. She says the Memekwesiw were then a very real part of the lives of the Elders.

"If (mainstream society) can gain traditional knowledge from the Aboriginal people on how to be more careful with what you do to Mother Earth, she's going to last a lot longer,'' says Milne. "With the way it's going now, what's the future for our grandchildren?''

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