Showcased in Allen’s Art Page
kamāmak – butterfly
kamāmakwak – more than one butterfly
Showcased in Allen’s Art Page
kamāmak – butterfly
kamāmakwak – more than one butterfly
mōswa – one moose
mōswak – more than one moose
onīcāniw – cow moose (female)
iyāpīw – bull moose (male)
nōsīs – cow moose (female with a calf)
The spelling is how I remember it in school using Standard Roman Orthography.
It has been one year since my grandfather passed away. He was born September 12, 1925 and lived a long live until December 6, 2017.
My best memories are from when I was a boy in the trapline. Listening to his stories and imagining all the details of his fascinating tales. They were great times with only a few bad times of being out of food. He usually knew when to go to town to get supplies and he would always asked me what I wanted him to bring me: “kīkway kā-nitowithihtaman ta-pītamātan?” (What do you want me to bring for you?), “coke ‘ikwa’ (and) bananas,” I would say. If he didn’t spend the night in town, that evening I would have my treat.
Many of the memories I treasure, are from when we would sit in the cabin, after a long day of checking snares and traps, telling each other stories. After one of his wihtikō stories, he stood up and said: “matwāncī nikaki papāsiha wihtikō, ikī nakiskawak” (I wonder if I could have given the wihtikō a tough time if I met up with him).
Right away, nōhkom (my grandmother) spoke up: “āpahkowisi, ka nipahisikisi ikī wāpamat wihtikō.” (Don’t be foolish, you would be scared to death if you saw the wihtikō), “namōthitokī” (I don’t think so), said my grandfather puffing out his chest and lifting his shoulders.
At the time, I truly believed he could have whipped wihtikō’s butt. I thought he was the strongest man alive. He talked about lifting “ayinānīw” (eight) eighteen-foot canoes over his head, straight over his head. nimosōm used to call himself “māwaci nāpiw” (the manliest man). As a kid, I ate it up.
The trips to the trapline went for a few years. I wished those days would never end but unfortunately, that’s not how life works. All good things come to an end. The last time nimosōm brought me coke and bananas, was when I was at home in Hall Lake, I was 12 years old. It was summer time, a time when we would be out on the lake going from island to mainland to island again, hunting for ducks. School was going to be starting soon at the time and I took what he bought for me and he stood there like he wanted to ask me something. Instead, he stayed quiet and went into his cab to go to Pesiw Lake. I stood at the steps just wanting to go with him. I watched the taxi drive out of sight as my mother told me, that he probably wanted me to go along. I already know that though.
I know education is important and I knew it then. I should have just gone with him.
kīkway kā-nitowithihtaman ta-pītamātan? – What do you want me to bring for you?
matwāncī nikaki papāsiha wihtikō, ikī nakiskawak – I wonder if I could have given the wihtikō a tough time if I met up with him
āpahkowisi, ka nipahisikisi ikī wāpamat wihtikō. – Don’t be foolish, you would be scared to death if you saw the wihtikō
namōthitokī – I don’t think so
ayinānīw – eight
māwaci nāpiw – the manliest man
My top picks
As a boy, one of the many stories my late grandfather told me was when he thought he might have tracked the wihtikō. One day, in the winter, he was out with my late uncle (nohkomis) on the frozen lake, way before I was born. I listened attentively as he told his story about a set of tracks they had seen along the way to their destination. He did not know what kind of tracks they were and that he had seen many types of tracks over the years, but nothing like the ones they saw that day.
He described them as kind of a twig laden track. It was hard to vision what he was talking about. He said it in Cree, something like “watihkwanisa” or “wacihkwanisa.” It was a very vague description, but I was more interested on what or who it could be. My grandfather went on to say that my late uncle Jacob, did not seem interested before they went back on their journey. Nimosōm looked at me and said: “matwānci ana wihtikō kāki namimihāk?” (Maybe it was wihtikō tracks that we found?).
It was a story that intrigued me and left me wondering and wanting more. I imagined the wihtikō traveling around the boreal forest, looking for his next meal, maybe one of us at the camp. I was in awe of the possibility of his story being true that it stayed on my mind for many years. What if the wihtikō was nearby? Maybe he was looking for an opening to take one of us at the most opportune time and gobble us up, one by one. I cringed at the thought that he may have been observing me standing near the camp, waiting to pounce and drag me away when he had the chance.
I did not want to tell my mother this story because I did not want her to kill my fantasy, as it were. I wanted to believe there might be some loathsome creature that is real and evil. I wanted to find out more but without asking my parents what they might have thought. In short, I did not want to hear the truth because there had to be something out there and I wanted to believe my late grandfather’s tale and his adventure. I was totally exhaled at his fascinating storytelling. The mystery and thought-provoking ways he told his stories, were the most entertaining I ever heard, even to this day.
It is hard to say what it was that they tracked on the snow. The only thing I can think of, is maybe big boots with very rugged treads from another trapper. He did not elaborate where they might have tracked the foot/boot prints, but he told me this story when we were at our cabin at Pesiw Lake (he used to call it pīsiw sākahikanihk) in Northern Saskatchewan, about 120-130KM from the town of La Ronge.
“Twig” and “sprig A small branch or twig,” translation – courtesy of Online Cree Dictionary – http://www.creedictionary.com/search/?q=twig&scope=0
nimosōm – my grandfather
nohkomis – my uncle (dad’s side)
wihtikō – windigo
watihkwanisa – twig
wacihkwanisa – sprig A small branch or twig
matwānci ana wihtikō kāki namimihāk? – Maybe it was wihtikō tracks that we found?
pīsiw sākahikanihk – Pesiw Lake
I am not sure if I pronounced the twig and sprig properly but I did the best I could.
I need a new microphone, this old webcam mic is not cutting it.
When I was a boy, I used to love hearing about wīsahkīcāhk, the trickster, and all the shenanigans he got himself into. I remember a story about when the trickster met with wihtikow (wendigo in other areas). Wīsahkīcāhk had been walking around the forest, as usual, when he met with the cannibalistic entity. In the end, the trickster got away when he found a set of antlers and turned to face the wihtiko and scared him off. Like I said in another blog, I wish I could remember the details of the story but they are not at all clear because I was just a boy, many, many years ago.
One evening, I had something in my eye (īpisinīyān) and I told my grandfather about it. He told me not to worry because it would be gone by morning. I laid there wondering what he meant so I asked him. He looks at me in a half smile, that wīsahkīcāhk would be coming in the middle of the night to take it out of my eye. I said “wīsahkīcāhk?” His shoulders rolled in a bit of laughter I remember vividly to this day, “īhī,” he said, “tāpwī, tipiskāki kita pī-otinam kīkwā, kiskīsikohk ohci.” (for real, tonight, he will come to take it out of your eye).
I lay there thinking, “could this be real?” I wondered how wīsahkīcāhk looked. I imagined he looked like the character from the legends we used to have in school; long braids, with a full animal hide outfit. I wondered how he would come in. Is the rickety door even locked? Does he come in spirit form? As soon as I thought of that, I got scared. Terrified even, I ended up staying up late the night wondering if every noise was coming from him. I finally fell asleep at some point.
In the morning, lo and behold, the thing in my eye was gone. I shuddered to think if my grandfather was right and being truthful. Of course, we all know today that it was tearing that slowly brings out the foreign objects. My mom revealed to me that part when I told her what my grandfather told me. She laughed when she thought about it and kind of exposed nimosōm’s storytelling ways.
Audio of Woodland Cree terms below:
īpisinīyān – something is in my eye
īhī – yes
tāpwī, tipiskāki kita pī-otinam kīkāw, kiskīsikohk ohci – for real, tonight, he will come to take it out of your eye
Images of wīsahkīcāhk and wihtiko were taken from the Gift of Language and Culture website catalogue: http://giftoflanguageandculture.ca/catalogue-and-order-form/
mikiskāw – freeze-up
I fondly remember growing up the trapline around this season when I was a boy. My grandfather went out one time, just before freeze- up (mikiskāw) and told me that he was going to go check out a couple of places that needed his attention. I wanted to go with him but I could tell from his body language that he didn’t want me coming along. I wanted to go so badly but I didn’t ask, he went off and was on his way using the old rickety canoe that we used on so many duck hunting outings.
That evening, I waited patiently at my parents cabin for his imminent return as I noticed the weather changing drastically. The temperature dropped very noticeably and we all knew there would be ice the next day. He did not come back the next day and I missed the evening Cree story telling I enjoyed in the early nightfall. I was getting worried about him as the camp felt empty to me, without him.
On the second day, the ice was already getting thick, as there was very little wind to break the newly formed ice. I went to the shore again to see if he was coming home. It must have been my third trip to the shore that day. It was nearing about 4:00 PM, or somewhere around there, when I saw a familiar speck across the lake where the ice must have been thinner.
As he came closer, I could tell he was starting to need to put more effort into his paddling. The ice near the shore was at least an inch thick but my grandfather, wanting to show the man he is, broke through at a snails pace to get to shore. I was so happy to have him back home, and with him, was a couple of ducks that didn’t make it down south.
That evening, I read out some Archie comics (in Cree) to him as he sat listening intently, to another Archie vs Reggie adventure.
mithoskamin – break-up
sīkwan – spring
nīpin – summer
takwākin – fall
mikiskāw – freeze-up
pipon – winter
All pictures and audio are my own, if you feel there may be a mistake in the audio pronunciation or written text, please let me know (email@example.com)
My daughter Caitlyn took this picture of a raven scavenging for food. The term we use in La Ronge for kāhkākiw, check out the audio above and comment your community’s version.