In Atikamekw, lifestyle is governed by the six seasons that determine the activities and movements in the area. In each season, there is a main activity and campsites differ. The relationship with nature also changes with the season.
Sikon : Pre-spring
The order of the seasons starts with Sikon, which is a kind of pre-spring and includes the months of March and April, meaning respectively the snow melts and the month of the shiny crust.
Pre-Spring is the time of maple trees. They make baskets from a single piece of bark tied with moose sinew and sealed with boiled spruce gum. These baskets will be used to collect sap and mold the maple sugar. Maple trees are tapped and the water is collected and is boiled in pots above the fire. The syrup is skimmed and filtered in cotton. To wait, they eat a little mapple taffy. When a bubble chain emerges from the slotted spoon, it's time to put the hot sugar into the molds.
Miroskamin : Spring
Then follows the Miroskamin, spring, gathering the months of May and June. It announces the awakening of nature; May being the month of flowering and June the month of strawberries. The earth is no more hidden by snow and the birds return.
Spring is the season of great travels for men and animals. They travel the country to take stock of wildlife resources. They fish the filet walleye, the lake trout and the brook trout, they trap muskrats and beavers, they hunt ducks and partridges, they skin the game and they prepare the skins. It is also the time to pick cranberries in bark quarts made quickly and with whom the Atikamekw make jams.
Nipin : summer
Then follows the Nipin, which is summer. We then witness fulfillment of nature.
Summer, meanwhile, is the season of small game hunting (ducks, partridges, hares) and net fishing (walleye, pike, brook trout, lake trout), gathering bark, medicinal plants and berries, including blueberries, from which they produce a dense and nourishing paste that is the dessert of the season and is an important source of vitamin C essential to survival in the forest. The ducks are plucked and fish gutted. Birch bark is used to make baskets and quarts and blueberry is transformed by evaporation into a semi-dried paste, which will be kept beyond winter.
Takwakin : Fall
Tarwakin means fall. The days are getting shorter and leaves fall from the trees. September means that the leaves are the color of fire and October is the month of salmon and trout.
It is fall, the season of moose hunting and whitefish fishing (whitefish that gave its name to the Atikamekw). It is the mating season for the moose that answers the call. They hunt some to stock up for the winter. At the time of butchering, nothing is lost. The skin is removed carefully. It will serve to make sinew. Offal is prepared and eaten immediately and the meat is smoked to be preserved. They set nets for whitefish: chipped, drained, incised and threaded on a stick, it is then smoked to be preserved.
Pitcipipon : Pre-winter
Than Pre-winter or Pitcipipon comes. It counts the months of November and December during which the snow comes again and animals build shelters. November is the month of whitefish, this fish is caught in large amounts by the Atikamekw people, and December is the month of the appearance of snow.
Pre-winter is the season when animals have their best fur, the one of beaver trapping, marten and rabbit snares. Men have developed a beaver trapping technique. With the help of dogs, they will locate the beaver hut and set up traps with their ancestral technique allowing one of them to catch a beaver by the legs, under water with his hands. A woman tours the collars to pick up the hares that are trapped. A man brings back martens to the camp. They prepare the different skins and with braided straps of hare skins, women make coats.
Pipon : winter
Finally, it is time for Pipon, which means winter. Pipon settles for good with snow, wind and blowing snow. January is considered to be the longest month and February is the groundhog month.
During winter, they practice ice fishing with a net. Men dig holes to slide a pole under the ice to which is attached a rope followed by a net. They bury the holes, they tend the net and they come back later to pick up the fish. At the camp, they make snowshoes pairs. Women remove the hair from a moose skin, and then the skin is washed, scraped, tanned and cut into sinew and used to braid the carpet of the racket whose frame was made by men.
A year for modern Natives is also divided into 12 months. However, former Atikamekw people have translated them into their language. The beginning of each month is the same as the calendar we know today. Among the Atikamekw, the months of the year are laid out as follows:
- January « Kenositc Pisimw », the longest month;
- February « Akokatcic Pisimw », the month in which all groundhogs come out;
- March « Nikikw Pisimw », otter month;
- April « Ka Wasikatotc Pisimw », the month in which the moon is reflected on the ice;
- May « Wapikon Pisimw », the month of flowering;
- June « Otehimin Pisimw », strawberries month;
- July « Mikomin Pisimw », raspberries month;
- August « Otatokon Pisimw », the month in which young birds learn to fly;
- September « Kakone Pisimw », the month in which the porcupine breeds;
- October « Namekosi Pisimw », the month in which trout spawns;
- November « Atikamekw Pisimw », the month in which the whitefish (white fish = atikamekw) spawns;
- December « Pitcipipon Pisimw », the long times month.
For the transformation of these months the ancients examined the activities that were repeated year after year as the months went by. That is how the months and seasons names were adapted to match the specific situation in the Atikamekw culture. These are still in use in these communities.