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The wild woman

Lonely with a tender heart

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There are a large number of tales and legends that make the charm of Anticosti stories. There is one that will never be found in books because it was never transcribed and it was told to me by a typical Anticostian, now deceased, Dan Blaney.  One day, I was hitchhiking to go to Carleton.  He picked me up with his old truck and we chatted like old friends who have known each other all their lives.  At the height of Anse de la Sauvagesse, I ask him why this cove bears this name, since there are not many places on the island that refer to the Aboriginal presence.  He then told me that this beautiful legend was told to him by his father, when he was a child. He told him this story among others to put him to sleep.  I reported this story in the Ecoguide d'Anticosti (Samson, 1990) because I believe there is some truth to it.  It clearly demonstrates the extraordinary richness of the oral tradition that exists on the island, preserved by the insularity of its inhabitants who have not yet been too "deformed" by modern civilization. Anyway, whether this story is true or not, it is certainly the most beautiful one that I have heard on the island.

Image de Patrick Hendry

In the past, long before Europeans even discovered America, several Amerindian families of Innu origin settled along the Anticosti coast to come and fish and hunt.  They could thus stay for many months or even a few years before moving elsewhere.  Small groups could include two or three families and everything that was needed to survive the long winter seasons was moved there.

One day, during fall, a fatal epidemic (Mr. Blaney does not know which one) broke out within one of these groups which was then installed near the place that is now called Anse de la Sauvagesse. After several deaths among the adults, a young teenager was entrusted with taking care of all the young children in the group. She went and isolated herself a little further and prevented the disease from being transmitted to the children.  The disease did finally get the better of all the adults and the young girl had to lavish care and food on all the children during the long and harsh Anticostian winter.  Thanks to her good care, all survived. When another Montagnais family, worried about their absence, went looking for them and found them, they discovered healthy and vigorous children.  The children were brought back to the North Shore but, despite their insistence, the young girl decided on staying on the island to lead a solitary life. She had developed this sense of kindness and a calling that would make her a wonderful myth for sailor storytellers. 

It was a time when there were many shipwrecks on the island.  The young Innu woman, who was very beautiful, came to the rescue of the castaways and provided them with first aid with a great sense of humanity.  Later, those sailors, seduced by their benefactress, returned to the island to ask her hand in marriage, but they never found her.  She only appeared when shipwrecks occurred and disappeared once everyone was healed and out of danger.  Despite all of the researches, she was never to be found, but many sailors were able to survive thanks to her cares.  Thus, this beautiful unknown Innu, the solitary “sauvagesse” with a generous heart, entered the legend.  Even today, at Anse de la Sauvagesse, it is said that the wind peddles her gentle voice through the breeze that crosses the spruce trees. Did I hear her?   My heart alone knows the melody of her voice.  

Pascal Samson

Excerpt from the Anticosti Ecoguide

Image de Zoltan Tasi
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