The intimate story of a Cree woman's life and of the old ways of the James Bay Cree.
Ellen Smallboy's life spanned a period of immense change among the Cree of northern Ontario. Born in about 1853 near James Bay, for most of her lifetime Smallboy led a semi-nomadic life that revolved around seasonal hunting. By the time she was an old woman, however, Cree lifestyle and culture were undergoing dramatic changes. Regina Flannery draws on her meetings with Smallboy, then aged eighty, to produce a detailed picture of her life during both these periods.
Flannery recounts Smallboy's childhood at Lake Kesagami, her father's early death and the effect of this tragedy, her marriage to Simon Smallboy and move to French River, and her old age at Moose Factory. Through Smallboy's anecdotes and episodes in her life, long-vanished values and norms of Cree society are illustrated and recorded.
A concise history of European contact with James Bay Cree by John Long and a summary of literature on the Cree of Moose Factory and James Bay by Laura Peers place Smallboy's life in historical context.