Thank you all for your support, I didn’t realize the amount of likes I received from you fine people. I appreciate all the shares and LIKES. It wasn’t too long ago that 400 likes was such a privilege to receive, from such a great group of people. Thank you for following my page.
My grandfather and I used to get up at the crack of dawn and got home at nightfall most days to check our snares and traps. We had been getting some good luck on the rabbit snaring but we noticed our rabbits started to go missing. “awīyak awa ika kimotit ki wāposoma” – Somebody is stealing your rabbits.
As a boy of about 6-7 years of age, it got me thinking of many scenarios of what might be stealing our rabbits, which totally impeded our intake of rabbit soup. I loved dipping my thick crumbly bannock that nimosōm used to make, into the salty, peppery, “pahkwīsikanapoy” – flour soup. What could have been taking our rabbits? I thought maybe an ōhō – owl or mahkīsīs – fox.
I imagined ōhō perched on a branch, looking side by side and then noticing a rabbit, free for the taking. I thought maybe mahkīsīs would be snooping around, stalking its next prey and finding our rabbits, frozen on the ground like they were placed there for them (they kind of were I guess).
I am sure my late grandfather knew what was eating our rabbits, but I had no idea because as young as I was, I didn’t notice the tracks and only listened to the part about “awiyaK” – somebody. It sounded ominous to me at the time because it sounded like it could be anybody or anything that might be deemed evil, like a creature of some kind.
It was late fall, early freeze-up at time and there was not much snow. I remember we may have been walking along the icy shore where it was thick enough to hold us. If we went too far, the ice would start cracking. This was a risk many families had to make to survive. My grandfather had enough experience and knowledge, that we were relatively safe out in the wild.
One morning, when we got to “maskīkohk” – to the muskeg, nimosōm went up ahead to take a piss first but quickly came sneaking back, “awayak awa niwapamaw” – I see somebody. He took his gun that was resting on a tree truck and he loaded it before he went back.
I was completely freaked out, what could he have seen? The look he gave me, was one of excitement when he saw something. I was scared to think of what it might have been. As he loaded up the gun, I went up a bit to see what it was.
I saw some movement where our first snares had been and saw the biggest cat I have ever seen in real life. Having little knowledge of the more diverse animals in the north, I thought it was a cougar. Like the kind I would see on TV in town. This cat looked straight at me for awhile and made a face, I was very amazed and fascinated at the sight of the cat. I stepped back to my original position as nimosōm aimed his gun and shot the “pisiw” – lynx, right between the eyes. The cat dropped instantly, surrounded by rabbit fur and blood. The mystery was solved.
Chances are, my grandfather knew it was a lynx all along, he just wanted to entertain me by sounding frightening in a way. He would have a bit of smile when he mentioned the mysterious thief. It was all in good fun and I fondly remember the many times he told me the tales of wīsahkīcāhk and wihtikō for late evening entertainment. His facial expressions and hand gestures, were gold, in the storytelling process.
When I started working with the Gift of Language and Culture in 2005, I moved into my maternal grandmother’s house in La Ronge, SK. Her name was Evelyn Venne, ōhōsis was her nickname, meaning little owl in Cree. She was happy to have me live there because I was her favourite grandson (according to me).
She asked me if I was still in school: “kīyāpic cī ī-tāyamihcikīn?” (Are you still going to school?)
I told her no, and that I started working in La Ronge. “tānsi māka īsi ī-ātoskīn?” (What are you working as?)
I was anticipating that question way before the conversation, “Web Developer kīsi ātoskiyān,” I said. The look on her face was one of confusion. I did not expect her to understand in anyway and wondered how I could put it in a way she would comprehend. Out of nowhere, she said: “mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan?” (computer).
īhī, (yes) I said, ikotowa kīkway. She looked and smiled her beautiful smile because she knew she caught me off-guard. Lesson learned, just because a person is elderly, does not mean they are not paying attention to the changing world. She knew I was in a computer training program, so I guess she just put two and two together.
She used to enjoy looking at all the pictures I had in my computer and was always amazed at the things it was capable of. I would scan old pictures and she would ask me: “tamahkapihtayin” – make the image larger.
How would one say Web Developer? Kohkominahkīsīs iyāpiy kā osihtāt – one who makes spider web, haha, maybe not. It would likely be a reference to using a computer for work, I think. Something like, mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan katoskātahk – one who works with computers. I believe it would be the general term for maybe IT admin or computer support worker.
Maybe one of the readers of this blog has an idea, I would love to hear it. Any words having to do with computers or maybe mobile devices, would great.
Going back to my blog about my grandfather and uncle tracking a wihtikō (NIMOSŌM AND MY UNCLE TRACK THE WIHTIKŌ), I received many comments and reactions on Facebook which is always good for website views and acknowledgement. I appreciate all comments and find them all interesting but the one that interested me the most, was the theory that it might be a Bigfoot.
Over the years, I have heard stories where huge rocks would be thrown at people on the side of a road when they were hitchhiking. Near my home reserve, there had been a sighting of a hairy, human shaped creature eating at the shore of a lake or river. One comment I read was that of a creature being seen in NWT that may have been a wihtikō but is a wihtikō sighting feasible?
From the descriptions I have read online, a wihtikō is more of a spiritual creature, an evil entity. It is the transformation of a starving human being into a crazy, evil creature that cannibalizes other humans to satisfy itself. I think that if a human turned into a crazy cannibal, then it could not be a monster.
Is it more likely that a Bigfoot could exist? It is hard for me to say. I have seen many videos on YouTube that show some type of hairy creature and many accounts of people who have seen it. The sightings all have similarities in their descriptions. It is hard for me to believe because I think many sightings can be explained. I also think that if I wanted to perpetrate such a hoax, I could do a good enough job to convince and fool many people.
Of course, I would not go about to try and pull a hoax because I don’t want to get shot. When I used to go out hunting ptarmigans and partridges with my bow and arrow or my 22 cal, I would have shot a strange creature, unless I completely freaked out and ran away, but anyway it would not be safe to go out pretending to be a Bigfoot.
On the outskirts of the reserve I lived in, there would be trees crisscrossed in weird ways that looked like it was on purpose. Since I was by myself during this time, I started to freak out a bit but convinced myself that it was trappers or mushroom pickers marking a good spot of some kind. The last thing I wanted, was to be alone with a creature from the woods, being an imaginative 12-year-old will do that. I had a straight-bow and some homemade arrows that had chipped deer boned tips, but I doubt that would have stopped a wihtikō or Sasquatch.
I wish I could have seen tracks or even a glimpse of something in the woods. I would gone out to investigate some more and would have done the research needed to try and get a picture or video to show the world. Tracks would be great to see, strange tracks that do not resemble any known animal. Maybe even tufts of hair that do not belong to any of the many rez dogs running around the bushes near my home reserve.
This summer, I plan on going to some familiar spots of when I was a kid with a bow and arrow. I hope the deforestation isn’t too bad.
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.
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.
I completed my final class project and I thought I would share the video I narrated with memories from when I was a little boy, I wrote it in the present tense. Travelling across the lake to our trapline with my father paddling us. It’s more a slide show than anything, along with text.
It is a counter-narrative in that it is an example of going out on the lake as an underprivileged family that does not have the riches to use a big boat or take huge supplies with only what we have.
In 2005, I started working for the Gift of Language and Culture Project as a casual web designer. Little did I know that they were expecting a Flash based website with images, text and audio all rolled into one for each category. I was overwhelmed by the expectations but I was happy to at least be working. I put in many extra hours at home to learn this new application.
I knew enough about image and sound formats but he text part gave me trouble because I had never worked with different text fonts other than the generic types we are all used to such as, Times New Roman, Arial or Comic Sans. I had to learn quickly because the demands of the project team was high and I was expected to work miracles and with new Aboriginal language fonts I never heard of.
We had Cree, Dene and syllabic fonts that needed to be installed on all our computers and I had to make sure people at home and schools could view the fonts on documents so I had to provide a link to the fonts for personal installation. There were also applications I needed to familiarize myself with, such as, CorelDraw, Publisher, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Audition and of course Adobe Flash (Macromedia Flash at the time). I already knew about Adobe Photoshop so that was a big help with the images that needed to be edited and manipulated.
The project team was great and the people were dedicated and willing to put forth much effort to accomplish what we could, to provide resources for Aboriginal language learners all over the country and even some in the United States. We had curriculum developers who compiled the Cree and Dene word lists and translations, illustrators who provided the original clip-art we needed, audio/visual personnel who recorded the audio and video required and of course the material developers who put the resources together for print and distribution.
Part One & Part Two
I personally collaborated with all staff to get what I needed to build the website and put their work together and develop what we see today. If it were not for the cooperation and hard work of the team, I could not do what I did for the website. I am grateful for the experience and I was so sad to see it all come to an end in 2011. It was a big part of my life, 7 years of my life that it still has a profound effect on me today.
I think I did well on my self-learning because we ended up with a great Cree website that is still online and used all around the world and has been viewed by 147 countries. It has had 276,357 hits and 100,226 unique visitors (as of June 17, 2015) which is pretty good for a non-mainstream language and website.
The YouTube Channel has 407 subscribers 260,379 views as (of June 17, 2015). The channel has songs, concerts, and animations for the whole family to enjoy. There are also a couple of instructional videos for snowshoes and birch bark baskets and many interviews with elders, some who are not with us today.
As the web designer/Flash developer, I received praise for the work I did but I always mentioned the people behind all the important work that needed to be done before I could even develop an animation or Flash exercise. I had a good working relationship with all my co-workers and while they contributed all the work, I made myself extra useful by troubleshooting their computer’s hardware and software when ever they needed it. There was no way I could do my work if they could not do theirs, so it worked out for all of us.
I am currently training to be a teacher at Nortep and hopefully in a couple of years I will be able to contribute to the Cree language professionally with much more credibility. I decided to go back to school because I needed more training in the area of education and to hopefully expand my horizons for myself and to contribute more to the learning environment of our students in other areas where it is needed.
On a side note, I would receive emails and phone calls from Montana, Ontario, British Columbia and the all the prairie provinces to let me know what a great job the Gift was doing. One person in particular called from BC to tell me that he loved the website and that two of his children were learning Cree from their mother who was a Cree woman he married from Saskatchewan somewhere, I cannot remember where specifically (it might have been Pelican Narrows). It was a morning call out of nowhere but it was a nice surprise way back about 2010.
I wish the project could have continued but all good things come to an end. Maybe one of these days there will be a revival and if there is, I would love to be involved again and provide my experience and expertise.