On February 2009, nikī-akosīn – I was sick. My head was killing me, and phlegm escaped from me with a vengeance. I had a dream of being dead and getting up in another dimension of sorts. The dream was confusing at first, but I was able to recall everything. The following is a present-tense narrative of that day/night.
I go to bed and hope the pain is gone in the morning. My flu-like symptoms ravaged me since the day before and I wonder how much longer I will suffer. I lay in bed hoping sleep will come soon as I close my weary eyes and hope the pain goes away.
I open my eyes to know that I am better, I sit up on my bed and see a strange sight before me, I see myself lying on the bed. I am astonished to see myself, am I still sleeping? I get up to look once more. This place I live in 101 Reserve used to be jumping with activity. I get up to walk to the hallway and as I walk I can see that it is daytime, something I did not notice when I got up because my windows were covered with a dark blanket.
I go into the hallway and look ahead. There is activity, I see my late auntie Jill in the kitchen area looking after some children I do not recognize. She talks to them and feeds them. She has the look of happiness as she smiles and comforts those who seem to need her and her caring demeanor. As I look while I am halfway through the hallway, my late grandfather comes out of my then living grandmother’s room. He looks at me: “tīniki kā-pīkīyokīn” (thank you for visiting) he says.
As he walks me through the house, he tells me that Jill is taking care of children who have passed at an earlier time. The children were unfamiliar to me and he said I would not know them, they passed before I was born. Jill is their caretaker who is looking after them at this time. I asked about his late father Daniel and he said that he was out visiting the living to see how they were doing. I asked what he was doing in my grandmother’s room and he said he was visiting her. He said we can’t be seen by the living and we can’t see them unless we allow it to happen. He said he was just checking on her to see how she was doing. My grandmother was doing fine at the time and she loved having me and my daughter in her home.
I didn’t step out of the house but I imagined it looked the same as it did before I passed. My grandfather said I can visit who I want but not to let them see me, it would be too frightening to the living. I look to watch my late auntie Jill taking the children out to play, she did not acknowledge me. She was too busy taking care of the children. My grandfather had his arm on me and hugged me and thanked me again for visiting. Visiting, I thought I am just visiting, maybe I am still alive, I thought of my body on the bed.
I wake up in the same position as I was when I was sleeping.
I told very few people of this dream but it has been on my mind for the longest time. It was a great dream to have.
ī-wāpahtamān niyaw kāpasikowān – I saw my body when I got up
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.
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
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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.
Happy New Year to all my readers out there, here’s hoping for a great year in stories and Cree blogs.
After Christmas, it was back to the old grind for the family in the trapline. We needed to check out traps, nets and snares for food and the weather did not always cooperate with us. Nimosōm was going to check anyway because like he would say: “namwāc wītha nītha nika kipihtinikon kīkway, kīyām ithikohk kātahkāyāk.” (Nothing is going to stop me, no matter how cold it is).
So off he went to check the traps and I hoped he would trap a “wacaskos” – muskrat. I loved boiled muskrat with napatākwa – potatoes, the “pahkwīsikanapoy” – flour soup, afterward would really hit the spot. If it was all mixed into one pot, even better. The supper that day was great, “kwayask nimitho micison” – I ate well.
ocīmikīsikāw (literally ‘kissing day’) New Years Day was like the rest of January, we said our greetings of Happy New Year and then went on with our day. During the month, we did much of our fishing not far from camp, of course as it is with all fishermen, we tried many spots and even made the lake look like a slice of swish cheese, holes of many sizes but none too big to fall into. “niki mohcikihtān kākī kwaskwīpicikiyān” – I had fun when I was fishing.
“ocīmikīsikāw” (literally ‘kissing day’) – New Years Day
As a little boy in the trapline, my late grandfather used to tell me many stories after a day of checking snares and traps. I wish I could remember them in detail but they are pretty much a blur at this point in my life. I also remember when i turned 8 years old and knew how to read. I would return the favour to my grandfather by reading Archie comics and translating to Cree as he sat intently listening to the shenanigans of the ‘ol gang.
The stories he told me were enhanced with his use of hand gestures and body language to emphasize the main points. His tone of voice would change, depending on the situation in his stories. His great humour would shine through, as his shoulders would bounce up and down as he bellowed in laughter. I was mesmerized by his masterful telling of legends and some that were his very own. I will tell the story of the time he thought he tracked a wehtigo (wendigo in other areas) at his trapline in another blog entry.
Story telling has a big part of my life since then and I used to tell stories to my children, right off the top of my head, as they listened to my sensational stories without planning them first. I wrote a few in detail as they are on my website: http://firstnationstories.com . I am happy to share what I remember for everyone to read and hopefully share themselves to people they care about. Have great evening.