Tag Archives: cree audio

Nimosōm and Christmas at the Trapline

As a boy, I remember only one Christmas that we spend in the trapline. Other Christmases we would spend on reserve, whether at my parent’s house in Hall Lake or my maternal grandparents house in town at 101 Reserve. The Christmas in trapline was very different.

On the days leading up to Christmas, my paternal grandparents would talk about their other family members that I don’t think I ever met. It was always fascinating to me when they would sit and talk, occasionally laughing or sympathizing. It was a time of reminiscing old times and old friends.

When a certain person had done something crazy: “wahwāy, nanātohk māna ikī itahkamikiso” (Oh boy he used to do all kinds of things).

If there was a tragic story: “tāpwī māna nikī kitimakinawaw“(I would feel so sorry for her).

If nimosōm or nōhkom mentioned an old rival of my grandfather (actually a good friend of his), he would energize up a bit and say: “Ha, nikī mākwihāw māna kākī māsīhitowahk” (Boy did I ever give him a difficult time when we wrestled). At this time, my grandfather would look at me and gesture with his hands how he held them up before a wrestling match.

On Christmas day, my parents gave us gifts that we usually received every Christmas. At my grandfathers’ cabin, where I showed up every day before daylight, they were saying their Christmas greetings “mithomakōsīwikanisi” to each other and giving each other gifts they had at hand. They were not wrapped or neat, but it would be appreciated and accepted with a “tīniki” or “kinanāskomotin.”

Things were a bit more serious as giving was important and should be done, but not at the expense of surviving the long cold winter, by giving away your boots or mukluks (maskisina). The thankfulness shown seemed very genuine to me, it was an important lesson to learn. That afternoon, our auntie took us sliding “īsōskocowīyahk” on a very steep hill, it was a great time.

All that was different to me because my maternal grandparents in town, on the reserve, would do the whole Christmas thing. Great feasts and happy faces and gift giving that I loved very much as a child. The main language used was English with some Cree thrown in by my maternal grandparents. Those were happy, carefree memories that I cherish to this day.

Santa Clause was called wīsahkīcāhk and that is where I first heard the term. “wīsahkīcāhk kiwī kīyokākonow tipiskāki” (Santa Clause is going to come visit us tonight).

At the cabin when my paternal grandfather mentioned wīsahkīcāhk in his stories, I imagined Santa Clause as the main character. It was weird but funny when I think about it now. It was not until later that I found out about the Cree legend, possibly from Sesame Street, but I am not sure, it was so long ago.

The Christmas on the reserve was in stark contrast with the Christmas at the trapline but I am happy to have experienced both. I can only imagine now, how a Christmas would be for a modern family from the reserve today. No technology after the batteries have died, and even then, there would be no Internet access. The videos and audio files would be there but there would be little time enjoy such things when you need to go out and get your own food from the land. There is also getting your own water from the lake and getting your own wood and chopping it for firewood.

On the plus side, there is an abundance of trees in the forest you can take home to decorate, with whatever you can find. I know it doesn’t seem glamorous, but it needs to be done when you are out there. Relaxing in bed, is so much better after a long hard day, you won’t feel like climbing a tree to get a signal.

nimosōm – my grandfather

nōhkom – my grandmother

maskisina – footwear

īsōskocōwīyahk – we are sliding

tīniki – thank you

kinanāskomitin = I thank you/I am thankful for you/I am grateful for you (#CreeSimonSays).

To two or more people

mitho-makosīkīsikanisik – Have a good Christmas

To one person

mitho-makosīkīsikanisi – Have a good Christmas

iskocīsa – batteries

nīhithaw ātathōhkan – Cree Legend

makōsīwikanimistik – Christmas Tree

(I made up this descriptive word, if there is a proper way to say it, I would be happy to hear from you)

WOLF IN WOODLAND CREE – PAINTING BY MOLLY RATT

From Molly Ratt’s Showcase Gallery Three

mahihkan – wolf

mahihkanak – wolves

mahihkanis – small wolf, usually baby wolf

mahihkanisak – small wolves

mahihkan ōtho – a wolf howls

mahihkanak ōthowak – wolves are howling

mahihkanis ōtho – a small wolf howls

mahihkanisak ōthowak – small wolves are howling

A big thank you goes out to Cynthia Cook, a former colleague of mine.I used to call her office, “The Lions Den” before I submitted a new webpage on the Gift of Language and Culture website – http://giftoflanguageandculture.ca/ 

This website was a big help – itwêwina website http://sapir.artsrn.ualberta.ca/itwewina/eng/crkMacr/

Nimosōm and my Uncle track the wihtikō

tracks
Not the actual tracks

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.

My late grandfather – Charlie Ross

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.

MOLLY’S ART – https://firstnationstories.com/?page_id=608

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.

Freeze – Up, in the Trapline with my Grandfather

freeze-up

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 (translated to Cree from me) to him as he sat listening intently, to another Archie vs Reggie adventure.