A delicious group activity of the Metis, Cree, and Ojibwe
The gathering of berries (la grenn) was a social experience, and a berry party was enjoyed by everyone who took part. Gathering was usually done by the women and older children, and in the country of the Ojibwe, Cree, and Metis, berries of many varieties could be found throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall.
During gathering, a woman usually carried at her belt a small birch-bark basket or cloth bag in which she placed the berries as she gathered them. From this the berries were emptied into a larger basket that everyone dumped berries into. The berry party might also carry an ax to cut the higher boughs of chokecherry or similar trees to get to the good berries.
In olden times the cranberries (Pabinaw) were gathered by hand, but in more recent times a box was used. This box was open on one end, with the lower edge cut like the teeth of a rake. It was operated like a scoop, taking off the tops of the plants with leaves and small stalks as well as the berries. This made it easier to gather many berries at less effort.
Blueberries (lii blooay) and Saskatoon berries (lii pwayr/Juneberries) were almost always dried if they weren’t eaten fresh. Chokecherries (takwahiminana), were dried and pounded, stones and all. Raspberries (lii fraanbwayz) were “boiled down” and spread on sheets of birch bark and allowed to dry further. The little cakes that were made of the raspberries were then piled one upon another and tied in packets for storing.