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
From as far as I can remember, nimosōm called me “cīpic,” which is a reference, to a man named David, a man who lived across the lake from my grandfather’s cabin. All the way from seeing him in La Ronge when I was a boy living on 101 reserve, to his cabin in Pesiw Lake and to his new house (at the time) in Hall Lake, he called me “cīpic”.
I remember my parents discussing this when I was a boy and they suggested that it was because nimosōm did not want to say his own name, Charlie. “īkwīmīsiyān nimosōm” – I have the same name as my grandfather.
That was the understanding I got, and I stayed by that explanation since. Whenever he was proud of me for something, he would say, “wahwā cīpic,” or “wahwāy cīpic.” It was a term of endearment that I appreciated and wondered about, as a boy.
During the summer of one of our duck hunting trips, we went up to a mīnistik (an island) with the intention of landing on it and crossing to the other side. We were sneaking up on what had to be at least 200 sīsīpak (ducks) spread out over a sparse wild rice patch.
Before this, he been giving me one .22 “mōsonīy” bullet at a time when we were shooting ducks, and only after he shoot at a group of ducks with a shotgun and some getting injured. We would shoot at them before they would dive in.
When we were done crossing the island, we got to the ground and snuck up to a huge flock. My grandfather slowly brought out his shotgun and BOOM! Many ducks went flying up in all directions as he continued to shoot with his pump-action.
After the blitz of birds, my grandfather started to pick off the injured ducks that were trying to dive in. At this time, he handed me two .22 bullets, he looked at me and said: “wahwā, cīpic ikwa iwī nipahīw sīsīpa” – Wow, Charlie is going to kill a duck now.
I was so happy to get the bullets, I tried so hard to concentrate and make a kill, but I ended up missing. I was sad but the exhilaration of getting not one, but two bullets was great.
nimosōm – my grandfather
pīsiw sākahikanihk – Pesiw Lake
wahwā cīpic – Wow Charlie
wahwāy cīpic – Wow Charlie
mōsonīy – bullet
sīsīp – duck
sīsīpak – ducks
wahwā, cīpic ikwa iwī nipahīw sīsīpa” – Wow, Charlie is going to kill a duck now.
īkwīmīsiyān nimosōm – I have the same name as my grandfather
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
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.
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)