The Ojibwe and Metis spent their winters in family units, surviving on what stores they laid in during the fall, and hunting for food to make it to spring. During the winter, the elders in each family unit recounted their oral traditions to the young. Some stories were so long and so intricate that it was said that the telling could start in the month of October when the first snow fell, and would not end until quite late in the spring—sometimes not until late in the month of May. On every evening, a part of the story would be told. Some stories used pictographs impressed upon birch bark to show and record certain "pictures" to accompany the stories.
The Ojibwe and Metis would generally only tell certain stories in the winter, so that the evil manitous that hibernated in the cold would not hear them and come bother the people. A summer narration of these stories would bring punishment from these creatures, particularly frogs, toads, and serpents. Traditional knowledge stated that the first stories were told in the fall when the reptiles began to crawl into the ground, while the last ones were told in the spring when the leaves began to appear.