Category Archives: Stories

niwītawīmāwak niwahkōmākinak – I play games with my family

When I was a boy back in the trapine, my siblings and cousins and I, would entertain ourselves without the modern devices we have today. We had many outdoor games like “tag” and others that involved running around and catching or tagging others in teams or individually. We would have slingshot targeting contests with old cans and bottles. We would make our own bows and arrows and shoot at targets or objects.

There were other types of games we called maci-nocikwīsīs –witch, I am sure there are many variations that other communities played. We would have a witch going after the children of a mother. The mother would have all the younger and smaller children lined-up behind her and the witch would try to get around the mother and snatch a child. This would go on until all the kids were snatched, it would get pretty intense towards the end, great times.

Another game we played was indoors, in my parent’s cabin at the trapline. nisīmis ikwa nitawīmāw (my younger sister and female cousin from father’s brother), would play a variation of “house,” my sister would be my sister and my cousin would be my wife. At the time, we called our cousin, pithōthā, Flora, or pithōthā cīn which means Flora Jean, my sister would sometimes call her pokopoy but I don’t know why.

We called the house game, “Isiah.” I would be Isiah and Flora would be my wife. We would start by living together until I decide to burn down the house and my sister would help her get away and to another house, along with luggage and children. Once they moved into a new house, I would come along and find them and burn that house down too. Be aware that we were between 5 and 7 years of age and did not know the how disturbing it would sound the if the story was put on paper or a website, just like I’m doing now.

My family had been living in Bigstone Reserve during the summer months and during that time, we saw a house on fire. It belonged to our auntie Annie and her husband Isiah. We heard a rumour that Isiah had accidently burned the house down and they ended up losing their home. Now in order to add a character element to our house game, we decided that Isiah did it on purpose just to terrorize his family, as in a “bad guy.”

One day, nipāpānān – our dad, told us namowitha ikosi takī isi mītawīk – you kids shouldn’t play like that. We stopped for awhile and pretty much discontinued, until he was gone, and we started up again. It was too much fun to stop. Our dad was right though, it was very disrespectful to our auntie because they lost their home in La Ronge. I’m glad we never told him about the time we were walking on the ice kākī mithōskamik – when it was break-up.

maci-nocikwīsīs – witch

namowitha ikosi takī isi mītawīk – you kids shouldn’t play like that

kākī mithōskamik – when it was break-up

pithōtha cīn – Flora Jean

pokopoy – nickname for Flora from my sister Susan

 

nōhkom wāpahtam machi-pimithākan – My grandmother saw a UFO

nohkom – my grandmother Emily Ross

When I was a boy, nōhkom (my grandmother) from my father’s side,  told us a story a story about how she saw a UFO. It was skimming over the trees across from nimosōm owāskahikanis (grandfather’s cabin). She was with nitawīmāw (my female cousin from father’s brother) when they were at the shore and saw the UFO. I believe this was before I was ten years old.

I was fascinated at the story nōhkom was telling me at the time because UFOs were all the rage on the kithāskīwi masinahikana (lying books) tabloids, such as The National Inquirer and Weekly World News. I could only imagine what it might have looked like and her story is actually where I got the idea for one of my many stories on this website: Machi-Pimithākan – UFO (http://firstnationstories.com/?page_id=1582).

I recently chatted with my cousin about it because it never occurred to me to ask when we were growing up. This is what she said:

Well her and I went outside at night…I needed to use the bathroom cause I was scared to go alone…then she said to me in cree…hey what is that up in the sky and I told her it can’t be a plane…so told me to hurry and said there was monsters on that plane that will take us away with them…then we went back in the cabin just scared lol…then late grandpa said they won’t bother u if your inside a house…so I felt better after that ..I always believed our late grandparents [sic]

Of course, at the time, there were no cell phone cameras to take a quick picture, so imagination is all we have for stories like this. We have all seen many pictures online and drawings of such phenomenon, but they always seem so blurry and pixelated. Videos of UFOs are difficult to make out because the objects are always so far away and the good videos look too fake to me. With a little time on my hands, I could make a fake picture or video, but I won’t because it would be too time consuming.

In the chat with my cousin, my grandparents seemed to have an intimate knowledge of such encounters with that type of craft. The reference to monsters, which I take to be the aliens, seems to be a description of a creature they had no words for. The assurance that “they” will not bother you when indoors, tells me that there may be a risk of being abducted when you are outdoors and are close to a UFO. Scary thoughts come to my head when I think about that, considering all the UFO abduction stories in books, TV and online.

Speaking of scary thoughts, one-time, nōhkom told us a story about a family that was living out in tents in late fall. One of the people saw a craft landing on the ice and he/she went running inside. They all laid in their sleeping bags and blankets, cowering in fear when suddenly, a group of small beings went inside the tent. One of the women was pregnant and had a miscarriage from being so terrified. nōhkom said the beings were as short as children. I cannot remember the rest of the story, but my siblings and I, shuddered at the possibility. We were staying in tents at the time because my grandfather’s cabin was being worked on. I had to have been six years old when we were told this story.

The only time I remember having a close encounter, was when my friend and I were walking home from another friend’s house in Hall Lake. We were walking along near a birch bark tree, when suddenly, a flash of light went streaking over the birch bark tree, we saw our shadows on the ground and we quickly looked up. We did not see anything or hear a sound, at least not from what I remember. We tried to rationalize by asking each other what it was, but when my friend told me it was probably headlights shining, I responded with “from up there?” We both looked at each other and ran back to our friend’s house.

When we got there, we told him everything. He told us that he heard that when you see a flying saucer once during the night, you won’t see it again. It wasn’t too assuring for us because we were scared out of our minds. We still had to go home, however, my friend lived closer than I did and so after I dropped him off, I still had a way to go before I got home. I was very paranoid during that walk.

nōhkom – my grandmother

nimosōm – my grandfather

machi-pimithākan – bad flying device or object, UFO, flying saucer

wāpahtam – he/she sees (something)

nohkom wāpahtam machi-pimithākan – My grandmother saw a UFO

nimosōm owāskahikanis – grandfather’s cabin

kithāskīwi masinahikana – lying books (such as The National Inquirer and Weekly World News)

nitawīmāw – my female cousin from father’s brother

ninanāskimon kā ayimihtayin nitācithohkīwina.  I am thankful that you are reading my stories.

 

 

nisīmis ikwa nitawīmāw īpimiskohtīyahk – My sister, my cousin and I, walk on the ice

break-up

piyakwāw kaki sīkwahk (once when it was spring), but maybe it was more mithōskamin (break-up of the six-seasons), nisīmis ikwa nitawīmāw (my younger sister and female cousin from father’s brother) decided to go check out the lake. We were across the lake from nimosōminān (our grandfather’s) cabin waiting out mithōskamin so niwahkōmākinānak (our families) could travel there once the ice was gone.

nisīmis had the ever-bright idea for the three of us tapimiskohtīyahk (to walk on the ice). There were trails of hard snow on the otherwise melting ice. We walked carefully and nisīmis went a bit further than we did. The atimwak (dogs) that followed us around did not follow the trails and would end up falling halfway through the ice and jumping out again. This happened as we were at least 15-20 feet from the landing. We all looked at each other and ever so carefully walked back to shore. nimitho pathīhokonān (we were lucky).

I cringe when I see a child walk on the unsafe ice, I instinctively yell at the kid or kids when I see them. Taking such a chance for adventure is something that, unfortunately, many children do. Please look out for your children and even if you think they will behave themselves because they would never do such a thing, there are always bad influences out there.


I have worded out many of the Cree terms below the way I remember them. If you feel the need to correct me on pronunciation or spelling, feel free, we are all always learning.

piyakwāw kaki sīkwahk – once when it was spring

pimiskohtī – you walk on the ice (command)

īpimiskohtīyan – I walk on the ice

īpimiskohtīyahk – we walked on the ice

nisīmis – my younger sibling

nitawīmāw – female cousin from father’s brother

niwahkōmākinānak – our families (this is how I understood the Cree term, corrections are welcome).

sīkwan – spring

mithōskamin – break-up

nimitho pathīhokonān – we were lucky, something good happened to us (I hope I got that right)

atim – dog

atimwak – dogs

 

 

Kinipīminaw – Our Water

Over two and half years ago, the North Saskatchewan River was threatened by a spill of 200,000 to 250,000 litres of heavy oil. Husky Energy scrambled to clean up, “the city was able to reopen its river intake in September 2016, more than two months later” (The Star Phoenix).

La Ronge Lake – 2014

This situation hit close to home (I live 240KM north of Prince Albert), and īkoskonikowān (it woke me up) at the very real possibility of the many sākahikana (lakes) and sīpiya (rivers) getting contaminated near where we lived, mistahi sākahikanihk– (La Ronge).

Hall Lake – Fishing

I was paddling in my father-in law’s canoe with my future wife at the time, when I closely looked at the pristine waters of mōso-sākahikanisīsihk (Hall Lake), my home community, and realized what a tragedy it would be if this beautiful lake became ravaged with oil. I could not imagine such an event. There have been many oils spills in this country, but it is also the development of oil that ravages the environment.

Hall Lake

My personal reliance on oil is high. I used it for fuel and for the plastic products I buy and use. The biggest use for me, is the very device I am using to write this blog for all to see, mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan (computer). It is the way I make a living. I have lived on the land as a child but even then, we needed oil products to survive. There is no going back for many of us.

I don’t know what to think about what I would do without oil products. According to Natural Resources Canada, “Canadians consumed 108 billion litres of refined petroleum products in 2017,” so I cannot be the only one that is torn between the economy and the environment. Both are important and I hope there can be a reasonable balance someday. I hate to say it, but I am on the fence about the whole thing. I like using oil-based products and my livelihood depends on it. I love the environment and I hope it can stay that way forever. It’s hard to say how I will feel in the future.

Hall Lake

I understand what the “water protectors” are doing and I applaud them for making the personal sacrifice for the future generations of First Nations people. nipiy kanākatāpahtācik, is the closest I can come up with for “water protectors,” maybe there is a better word, but I cannot find one. Their situation is very close to home and very real. It has become a tense situation and they are pulling out all the stops to do what they can. kicawāsimisinowak (our children) are the future and I hope someday they do not ask why, I did not do more to protect the earth.

kinipīminaw – Our Water

pimiy – oil, gas

īkoskonikowān – it woke me up

mistahi sākahikanihk – La Ronge

mōso-sākahikanisīsihk – Hall Lake

mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan – computer

nipiy kanākatāpahtācik – water protectors

kicawāsimisinowak – our children

askiy – the earth, land or soil

 

Sources in no particular order:

https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/prince-albert-mayor-wants-1-million-apology-for-oil-spill-from-husky-energy

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/husky-oil-spill-prince-albert-1.4594756

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/prince-albert-continues-pumping-1.3703837

https://huskyenergy.com/

https://globalnews.ca/news/4122905/prince-albert-saskatchewan-water-reservoir-husky-oil-spill/

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/facts/petroleum/20065

cīpay īpīkīyokīt – A Ghost Comes to Visit

I remember our first year we moved into our oskāyihk wāskahikan (new house) in Hall Lake. I think it was in 1982 but I am not sure. The house had three rooms, my parents had a room and there was one for the girls and one for the boys. It meant I had to share a bed and a room with nisīmis (my little brother). It seems poor now, but we never had it so good.

One night, while sleeping with nisīmis, I woke up to the bed shaking. It was a rapid shake and I was half asleep and bewildered at the event happening. During that cold, dark winter night, I thought maybe somebody was under the bed. I got down to the floor and didn’t see anybody or anything. I quickly got back onto the bed and heard my brother telling me to stop moving. I told him I wasn’t. ikī kīskwīkast (he was half asleep), but he still remembers to this day, he was about 5 years old at the time.

Later that night, I couldn’t sleep, it got very quiet. I thought it was over and done, then I started to hear kitowānāpisk (the stove) making a noise, like somebody scraping the grill on the side with their finger nails. I stayed in bed and but tried to see who it was from a lying position. I didn’t have the courage to get up and check it out, but I had hoped it was just nipāpā (my father) adding wood in the stove. I could never explain what it could have been. Logic tells me that it was one of my sisters pranking me, but they never admitted to anything.

The only other incident I can remember is when they were having a house party there, a guitar went flying from the living room closet to the middle of where they were drinking. I was in my room at the time and saw the guitar falling between them. The party goers stopped talking and laughing and they just stared at each other. īmatsōstākōwiyahk , one of them said which, I think means they experienced a bad omen of some kind.

I cannot remember anything else happening that winter or any other time. My parents still live there to this day and they have not told us any stories about premonitions or anything of the sort. I was about 8 years old at the time and I believe we ended up going to the trapline later that spring, we actually went back and forth from the house, to trapline and La Ronge, so it is difficult to pinpoint a time-frame.


oskāyihk wāskahikan – new house

kitowānāpisk – stove

nipāpā – my father (we don’t say nōhtāwiy where we live).

nipāpānān – our father

ikī kīskwīkast – he was half asleep

īmatsōstākōwiyahk – we experienced a bad omen (it is how I understand it).

nisīmis – my younger brother or sister

cīpay īpīkīyokīt – ghost comes to visit

 

Nimosōm okwāskīpicikan – My Grandfather’s Fishing Rod

Living at the trapline meant long days of walking and checking snares and traps for nimosōm and I. Other times, I would just observe him skinning animals and preparing them for trading in La Ronge at Robertson Trading Ltd. Mr. Robertson was always happy to see nimosōm because my grandfather always tried to bring in quality furs for trade. “haw, āthik ikwa naka nitōwāpamāw” (Now I will go see Alex). He used to call Robertson’s company, “āthikosihk.”

There were days, however, when we could relax: listen to the radio or read, but my favourite thing to do was go out ice-fishing. Nimosōm rarely fished at the usually spot because he liked to test out other areas of the wāsāw (bay) we stayed at near his cabin. He would go across the bay and take his chisel and spend an enormous amount of time making holes, at least to my impatience as a boy.

If I got bored waiting, I would use a knife (yes it sounds dangerous, but we were taught to be responsible) to cut out pieces of the hard snow and attempt to make an igloo, I never finished one because it would then be time for fishing. nimosom would be done the “pīkwatahōpān” (water hole in the ice). “wāskahikanis cī īkakwī osihtāyin nōsisim” (are you trying to make a little house grandson) he would say, as he let out a bit of a laugh with a big smile on his weather worn face. I can still hear and see him today as looked at me with amusement and pride.

nimosōm – my grandfather Charlie Ross

One of my memories takes me back to when, after a storytelling session, he decided to make a special fishing rod. It was a bit longer than a regular size wooden rod that we were used to. It was bent and fashioned into a bow, he even put a sting on it to make a little bow. “cīstī nōsisim, kīsi kwāskīpitaki kinosīw, tapimok” (see grandson, after I catch a fish, I can shoot it with an arrow). I looked at the bow and I was excited about it because I made my own bows and arrows outdoors (generally making a biodegradable mess outside).

He looked at his invention with a smile and then the smile went away. He looked at it again with a bit of distain and said: “mmm kīyām namōwitha katāc, namwāc ītokī kitīspathin” (hmm, maybe not, I don’t think it will work). I was so disappointed but far be it for me to disagree with nimosōm. I have a suspicion that he may have been just trying to entertain me. nōhkom was not impressed with the rod so maybe that could be why he changed his mind. I wish I could still talk to them at this point in time, they seemed so alive and not old.


Nimosōm okwāskīpicikan – My Grandfather’s Fishing Rod

āthikosihk – at Alex Robertson’s place

nōsisim – my grandchild

nōhkom – my grandmother

nimosōm – my grandfather

wāsāw – Bay

pīkwatahōpān – water hole in the ice

kinosīw – fish

kwāskīpicikī – fish (act of)

kwāskīpicikan – fishing rod

Thank you for visiting, I realize I repeat many words from blog to blog (I hate this word). I try to include new words as well, it may seem unstructured and may get the seasoned speakers irked but please enjoy and keep visiting.

ninanāskimon kā ayimihtayin nitācithohkīwina.  I am thankful that you are reading my stories.

 

nīso mihkināhkwak mītawīwak – two turtles play

Artwork by Allen Morrow

Two mihkināhkwak (turtles) were floating through the universe with no real purpose in their lives. They would often race to see who could get to a planet or other celestial body. sīpihkosiw (she who is blue) would always challenge askihtakosiw (she who is green), to anything they would see ahead of them. It was mainly planets they raced to because they were safer, they usually stayed away from the hot balls of iskotiw (fire). sīpihkosiw was the outgoing, rebellious type of mihkināhk and askihtakosiw was a maternal , caring mihkināhk.

One time (there were no days), sīpihkosiw saw a beautiful bright star that shone much light and warmth to all in its path. sīpihkosiw decided it looked safe because of the light and warmth and could not be harmful. askihtakosiw was not so sure but she did not want to disappoint her only friend.

The race was on, sīpihkosiw grabbed an opportunistic head start as askihtakosiw noticed an almost dead planet as it rested by the wayside. sīpihkosiw called out, “niwī otahikan, osām īpapīcīn, ikwa nītha ītatāstapiyān.” – (I will win because you are too slow, and I am fast).

sīpihkosiw would not even look back and kept going toward the star. She did not even think about how dangerous it might be because she wanted to win, yet again against askihtakosiw. askihtakosiw looked ahead and noticed the star was looking brighter and not with warmth, but with more heat. sīpihkosiw thought it was just a ploy when askihtakosiw called out to her. “aswīthihta, kisisow  acahkos.” – (Be careful, the star is very hot).

Artwork by Allen Morrow

It was too late; the star grabbed the left fin of sīpihkosiw and did not let go. askihtakosiw stopped because she knew it was too late. She knew it was all over for her dear friend that she loved so much. Her maternal instincts wounded her heart, as her friend became absorbed into the raging hot star. sīpihkosiw added to the heat of the star and it became the sun. The star just needed the fuel to become a sun and provide light and warmth to the dying planet that was on its last span of existence.

Artwork by Allen Morrow

askihtakosiw floated idle by as her friend was no more. pīsim (the sun) called out to askihtakosiw: “kinanāskomitināwāw, īmīthīk kīkwāy kita mīkiyān, pimācīhowin.” – (I thank you both, you both gave me something that I can give, life).

pīsim was happy but not sad for sīpihkosiw because she was now a part of something big, renewed life for the dying people. askihtakosiw was sad to have lost her friend. What would she do now? pīsim told her that she can do a very great thing, and that is to give something for the benefit of the dying planet and its people, her body.

Artwork by Allen Morrow

pīsim said to askihtakosiw, “kinawāpahta anima kawāwīyiyāk, ikota kowisimo, ikwa kita waniskāwak nīhithowak kita wīkicik, kiyaw.” – (Look at the circular thing, there go to sleep, there the Cree’s will wake up and live on, your body).

Ever since that time, when time began, turtle island became the home of the people, the beginning of time immemorial.

Based on Allen Morrow’s artwork

mihkināhk – turtle

mihkināhkwak – turtles

sīpihkosiw – blue (animate colour)

askihtakosiw – green (animate colour)

iskotiw – fire

acahkos – star

pīsim – sun

 

 

 

nisīmis and her Custom Made Woodland Cree Clock

Two weeks ago, nisīmis (my younger sister) lent me $40. Last week, I showed her my Woodland Cree clock and told her maybe I should make them with personal pictures as a background. She thought it was a good idea and then asked me to make her a clock with her sons as the background to pay for the $40 bucks I owe her. I agreed and worked on it last night.

I had the picture laminated and placed it in a document frame. I took the glass out and replaced it with the laminated picture. It turned out okay and looks good. I choose a light plastic frame which is light enough to be held up by a thumb tack.

I just thought I would share the story and maybe give some ideas on what can be done with a custom clock. Have a good evening. maybe next time, I will try an 8×10 frame, this was an 8.5×11 frame so I would not have to cut the laminated picture.

nisīmis – my younger brother or sister

masinipīsinowin – picture or photograph

pīsimohkān – Clock

tipahikan – Hour

cipahikanis – Minutes

mīna āpihtāw tipahikan – Half past the hour

For example – 1:30 would be, piyak mīna āpihtāw tipahikan

Previous post about clocks:

FREE PDF DOWNLOADS – PLAINS & WOODLAND CREE CLOCK

 

 

Nimosōm – nīstāw and I, fell through the ice

Artwork by Molly Ratt

At the time of the incident, I was about 7 or 8 years and nīstāw (my cousin), James, was 8 or 9 years old. nimosōminān – (our grandfather) was getting ready to go somewhere when James and I decided we were going to follow him. He looked at us, “hāw māka, sipwītihtān” – (okay, let’s go), he said.

It was late winter, and the weather was warming up, but this morning was cool enough to harden the snow. The place he was going, was across the lake from our cabins, David’s cabin. David was an old friend of our grandfather’s and many times he would go visit him and have tea or coffee. tī iwī nitowi minihkwīyān – (I’m going to go drink some tea).

nimosōminān was walking far ahead of us while nīstāw and I were wrestling and joking, typical boys horsing around. We were about halfway through the lake when suddenly, crack! We fell through the ice, one leg each. His left leg and my right leg. I was almost up to my knee, while nīstāw fell past his knee. We fell forward, as he grabbed me to keep himself from going in. We got out safely and stood up to assess ourselves. Up ahead, nimosōminān stopped to look back, saw that we were okay and then kept on walking.

When we got to David’s cabin, nimosōminān mentioned to us that maybe we fell into a water hole in the ice. “matwāncī ikī pōsipathīk pīkwatahōpānihk” – (I wonder if you could have fell into a water hole in the ice?).

“namōwitha osām kayās dīpit iki twāhahk pīkwatahōpān.” – (It was not too long ago, that David chiseled a water hole in the ice).

James and I didn’t think so because most pīkwatahōpāna would be too small to fit two legs, maybe one leg but not two. I don’t remember if we tried finding it again because like I said, it was late winter, and the ice crusted snow was hard, and we could not find our exact trail. To this day, we still do not know what we fell into, but the ice did crack and maybe it was just a weak area. We didn’t stay at the scene at the time because we panicked and ran to go warm-up in David’s cabin.

nāpīsis – boy

nāpīsisak – boys

nīstāw – cousin (my father’s sister’s son)

nimosōm – my grandfather

kimosōm – your grandfather

nimosōminān – our grandfather (mine and somebody else’s grandfather, not you and me)

kimosōmino – our grandfather (yours and mine)

pīkwatahōpān – water hole in the ice

pīkwatahōpānihk – at the water hole in the ice

pīkwatahōpāna – water holes in the ice (plural)

māsihkī – wrestle

wawāyitwī – joke around, kidding around

 

Bear and Eagle – maskwa ikwa mikisiw

Molly Ratt – http://firstnationstories.com/?page_id=1733

One wintry autumn day, maskwa was strolling along a path toward his sleeping spot for the winter. As he was a walking, mikisiw was flying overhead to start his trek to the warmth of the south, to the warm rivers, lakes and other areas where game is plentiful during the cold, winter months.
maskwa called out to mikisiw, “tānisi, ikwāni cī sāwanohk iwī ispithayin?” – (Hello, are you flying south for the winter?)

“īhī” – (Yes), said mikisiw, “osām māna kāti akwatihk īkāsocik kinosīwak“– (because when it freezes, the fish are hiding under the ice).

“nīsta ikosi, ikā mīna kīway mīnisa, īyawis ipākihtīki” – “For me too but also because the berries are gone, they have all fallen” maskwa explained.

“mitho nipā maskwa, kihtwam kawāpimitin sīkwahki“ – “Have a good sleep maskwa, see you in the spring.” said mikisiw.

“kīsta” – “You too,” relied maskwa.


Other translations:

maskwa – bear

mikisiw – eagle

mīnis – berry

mīnisa – berries

kinosīw – fish (singular)

kinosīwak – fish (plural)

Directions – These are terms that I heard being said.
North – kīwītinohk

South – sāwanohk

East – sākāstīnohk

West – pahkisimonohk