Each moon, the Seekers spend one sun at Nadmadiwining (Ojibwe for Support Camp), where the School’s main campus is located. It is there that the guides do a thorough check of the Seekers’ health status by taking their weights, measurements, and vital statistics. This is also the time when the Seekers do research from field notes they have collected while at camp, check in with friends and family, and take care of any obligations back home.
For the Ojibwe people, each moon is named according to the observances of nature and natural phenomenon. January is known as the Great Spirit Moon, or gichi-manidoo-giizis by some Ojibwe. In the North the frozen landscape and shorter days offer a time for reflection and inner searching into this Great Spirit mystery.
During the Seekers’ visit to Nadmadiwining during the Great Spirit Moon, they gathered together to answer some questions about what living at Winter Camp has been like.
Can you share some of the highlights and challenges of living at Winter Camp during the white season? How has your experience been sleeping in the lean-to?
When sleeping in a lean-to, you can’t stand up and this makes putting on clothes more difficult. I do really like to see the sky and the sun, though. There is also more air flow and less humidity, which is nice. But it’s cold.
I also really like the lean-to. It’s simple. Like Berry Love said, it’s totally open. You don’t feel like you are sleeping inside, but there is something in between you and everything else. I like to see the stars. I like to see the sky change between the star time and the sun. Of course it’s colder now. I think with the situation with Shkode’e, with her coming just with the guides, I realize that a part is now missing. The cleaning up–now someone else has to do it. We now have to do more on our own. After the second quarter moon with Shkode’e staying at the School, we are now in a routine; life goes on.
The benefit of living in the lean-to is that we are as close as possible to the hearth. We can be next to the fire and then turn around and go directly into our sleeping bags. Before, at Green Season Camp, the hearth was away from the lodges. We needed to walk through the forest, sometimes with candles, in order to get to our sleeping bags. This is much better.
Now that I have been out of camp for almost 3 quarter moons, I feel like I am finally arriving here. I feel like I’m getting stronger, that my emotions and body feel more in balance again. Feeling like this allows me to be more present when I am out at camp. I hope to be able to support my clan mates even more. And I also enjoy life at camp and being outside in a different way than when I was struggling so much with the cold.
I think we need to put the hearth even closer to the lean-to.
When it is so cold that our breath freezes, we can feel a difference between inside the lean-to and outside. It’s warmer inside, so sometimes the breath is not frozen on the sleeping bag. Sometimes my feet get cold and this will wake me up. We use stones from the hearth to help keep our feet warm.
The difference between Summer and Winter Camp is that the Winter camp is on the other side of the hill. The prevailing winds from the Northwest are cut off by that hill, which is where the lean-to is built into.
What methods have you discovered to make living in sub-zero temperatures more comfortable?
I remember that when the green season changed to the white season, I felt cold. But then something changed in my body and I got used to it. We also eat differently – more starch and more fat. Now what used to be cold feels warm.
I made this beautiful nose warmer because I had frostbite on my nose and it helped to have something there to protect it against the cold. But when I would breathe, the flap I initially made sent the warm air into my glasses and they would fog up. After a few changes, the nose warmer turned out well. It helped protect my nose from the cold and caught my warm breath, which helped even more.
I am always impressed again and again by how much I can warm myself up. If I am cold and then I run, suddenly I am so warm. We have so much heat inside our body already, we just have to keep it going so we don’t lose the warmth.
We had one really cold star time with no fire. Even with just movement, we could eat frozen food and go to sleep and stay warm. Movement is really important before bed.
I enjoyed when we tried the mittens system (of keeping warmth), when we became like the fingers in the mitten. We put our sleeping bags together and then a blanket over all of us to help keep each other warm.
I can feel the difference after I have washed myself. Keeping clean and clothing clean keeps us warmer.
How do you clean your clothes during the white season?
We put our clothes on a stick, then make a hole in the ice and move it up and down. We make sure we have a warm fire to dry things. It works well.
I have a good method for washing clothes – it works if you just drop to the snow with your clothes on and then dry them by the fire after.
We learned it doesn’t work so well to soak our clothes – we tried it and then had to carry big blocks of ice to the fire to get our clothes out.
[Much laughter by all]
Stay tuned for more posts from Winter Camp!
From left to right: Dancing Bear, Shkode’e, Berry Love, and Caretaker