The Cree word is a reference to the “Patron Saint of Ireland.” I got the translation from the Gift of Language and Culture website. It is not a holiday that is celebrated on our reserve, but it is acknowledged, and people enjoy the horror movie about an evil leprechaun.
I remember as a child, I would ask about the leprechaun and I would be told that he had a crock of gold at the end of a rainbow. I would sometimes imagine going on a quest to find the gold so I could be rich. Haha, thankfully, I never did go on such a quest, but the thought was fun.
I learned these terms during my schooling in the band schools of the LLRIB. They are a bit different from the southern dialects because the seasons move along differently down south. This is how it was explained to us by our Cree teacher, I believe it may have been Mary Cook (In Memorium, opens new window).
January – opāwāhcikanasīs
February – kisīpīsim
March – mikisiwipīsim
April – niskipīsim
May – athīkipīsim
June – opiniyāwīwipīsim
July – opaskowipīsim
August – ohpahowipīsim
September – nimitahamowipīsim
October – pimahamowipīsim
November – kaskatinowipīsim
December – thithikopīwipīsim
The meanings of the months, can be found in the sources below:
As a very young boy, I remember when nimosōm – my grandfather, started getting his cabin built across the lake from the Pisew Lake landing. Before that, we had been staying in canvas tents up until freeze-up. That next spring, nimosōm and okosisa – his sons, started preparing the area where the new cabin would be built.
I pretty much stayed out of the way because I was too small to help with anything. I wanted to get in on the action that was happening, but I just listened and observed from time to time. I remember the bark being peeled off the logs and the ground getting leveled. nipāpā – my father, is a carpenter so he was very busy with everything that needed to be done. nohkomisak – my uncles, Simon and Abel, were also helping with the cabin and I saw much hauling of logs, boards and sand.
The sand was a curious thing for me at the time because I wondered what the heck they would be using that for. I noticed later that they were putting it on the roof to absorb rainfall. Right away, I thought that maybe the sand would be too heavy and fall through, but the logs they used for the roof were strong enough. It was all very fascinating to me at the time. To see this kind of cooperation was great. They had their little conflicts, but they seemed to resolve them adequately, I did cower a bit when their voices were raised but it was all good.
When it was all done, it looked beautiful. It was bigger than the other old cabins that were nearby. In the winter, it had a canvas tent porch, so that the cabin would have a type of insulation from the bitter cold.
I remember one winter, nohkomis – my uncle Abel, told nisikos – my aunt Elsie, to make a pair of boxing gloves out of cloth and foam material. nohkomis Abel, challenged me to a friendly boxing match. I put up mu dukes and we battled it out and had fun. Unfortunately, my uncle got a bit too zealous and started punching me a little too much. His last punch knocked me on my butt and I banged the side of my head on a small stove. There was no fire at the time, but I was bawling my head off. nohkomis and nisikos, quickly got me some snacks they had stashed away, they needed to keep me quiet and not to tell on them. Great times.
My sisters and nitawīmāw, my cousin, Flora, would still walk back and forth from the cabin to the tent site to visit family. nohkomisak stayed in the tents during the fall and we had to walk along the shore to get there. kotak nisikos, my other aunt, Alice, may have noticed we were getting bored because after a while, she told us that we were going to learn how to set traps for a sākwīsiw – a mink.
I had watched traps being set by my uncles and grandfather and I had set rabbit snares, but I had never set a trap before. I remember feeling unsure about myself because I did not want to get my hand trapped on a leg-hold trap. I reluctantly went along as my sister and cousin seemed more enthusiastic, although they might have been faking it because Alice was a disciplinarian, and we did not want to set her off. Of course, now I realize that she has a kind heart and to this day, always does well at the fish derbies we have in our community. By the way, we never did catch the mink because we soon had to go back to La Ronge. I never asked my aunt Alice if she caught the mink.
I asked nipāpā about the cabin last night, and he said it had burned down. There was another cabin built but it had rotted away somehow. A third cabin was built with the help of my old pal Adam Joe and my cousin Richard. My grandfather loved staying at the trapline, and he went until he couldn’t go there anymore.
nimosōm – my grandfather
okosisa – his/her sons
nipāpā – my father
nisikos – my aunt
nohkomis – my uncle
kotak – other, as in “my other” or “the other”
nitawīmāw – my female cousin (father’s brother’s daughter)
The earth looks nice when it is winter
The snow looks beautiful
The earth is so white
Sometimes, the weather is bad
When it snows too much, travel is difficult
When the snow falls gently, it is very beautiful
Now it is going to start snowing more
When my parents got the house in Hall Lake, we got our first family Christmas tree ourselves. We made our own decorations. My mother looked stressed out at the time because it was the first house that our family ever had. Until then, we had been living at my maternal grandparent’s house until I was about 8 years old. We lived in a cabin at Pesiw Lake but this was the first time we had a real house.
My mom – nimāmā, wanted to get to get a tree for Christmas like we did at my grandmother and grandfathers house. My dad – nipāpā, had been out line-cutting and would not be back until after Christmas. It was up to my mom to get the tree.
We got our tree but, we did not have many decorations. My mom received some leftover décor from my grandparents, so she cut up some of them and taped the golden strips onto our angel, which was just a cardboard cutout. She made the angel look beautiful. She was happy to see our delighted expressions as she held it up.
My siblings and I joined in to make a chain out of coloured construction paper and made ornaments out of paper cutouts. We did have tinsel and that added a sparkling look to our dismally bald tree.
nimāmā always did the best she could for us. She knew we were used to the big Christmas feasts we had at 101 Reserve and she tried her best to bring cheer to us. We were seemingly isolated from all the family we knew, and she had to do what she could.
The Christmas presents were already purchased while we were in La Ronge at kōmpanihk – The Bay. They were wrapped and not too well hidden. I tried peeking at what was inside them, but I couldn’t do it without ripping the paper. I tried telling by the weight of the present and by the feel of it. I couldn’t even guess what it was.
On a side note, I posted a question on what “kōmpanihk” means on La Ronge Cree Language Group and my friend James Eninew gave me the answer. It means “At the company” in Creenglish (Cree and English mixed together). Thank you James.
nikāwiy – my mother
nimāmā – my mother (the way most of us say it in La Ronge)
nohtāwiy – my father
nipāpā – my father (the way most of us say it in La Ronge)