Âtayôhkân

The following are traditional Cree myths (âtayôhkân) translated by the author of this blog from Cree into English.

Diving Duck is a story told by the late John Blackned from Waskaganish. John, who was born late in the 1800’s, was renowned for his knowledge of sacred stories, among other things. The story of Diving Duck, known as Kôcîšip in the Cree dialect spoken in Waskaganish, was first published by the now defunct Cree Way Project in 1974. It was eventually republished in 2005 and reprinted in 2007 by the Cree School Board. The present translation remains faithful to the original, except for a few passages which required stylistic changes or that contained issues that arise when translating from Cree to English. Those who are well versed in sacred stories will notice how the story of Diving Duck contains many elements in common with the story of Meso, whom westerners know as Wîsahkecâhkw, and easterners as Kwîhkohâcew. A commentary on this story is available here.

The Fatherless Child is a story known along both coasts of Wînipekw, what is now commonly known as James Bay. This English version is a free translation of the Cree version told to me by the late Stewart Ottereyes from Waswanipi. An Anishininîmowin version written by Tommy Anderson of Wapekeka First Nation was published in 1979 in a collection of stories titled ᓇᓇᑐᐠ ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᐣ ᐊᐊᐧᓯᐠ ᐅᒋ. Both versions are nearly identical.

Meso and the Months of the Year is the final episode in the ancient story of the Great Flood. This particular episode was told to me by the late Stewart Ottereyes from Waswanipi. Other versions used to corroborate and complete Stewart’s version include one told by the late Dorothy Cheezo from Eastmain (published in 1971 in a book titled Indian Legends of Eastern Canada) and a version told by Job Kawapit from Whapmagoostui in 1999 (published online here). The Meso stories have been forgotten in many communities and what is remembered tends to be fragmented and occasionally mixed into other stories. The ancient name of Meso, which we find mention of in the Jesuit Relations of the 1600s, has been replaced by Wîsahkecâhkw in the west and Kwîhkohâcew in the east. Occasionally, the name is simply forgotten and the character of the fragmented story bears no name, as was the case with Stewart Ottereye’s version.

The Roc was first published in 1881 in Horden’s A Grammar of Cree Language under the name “An Indian’s Adventure.” Although it was first published in an Anglican alphabetic orthography and provided with an interlinear translation, Horden described it as a story first “written by a native in the syllabic characters…” that was included in the grammar so language learners could get a sense of “the Cree idiom and the arrangement of words in sentences.” As a traditional story originally written by a native Moose Cree-speaker in the late 1800s, it is perhaps one of the earliest examples of a genuine Cree language âtayôhkân. In this blogpost, the alphabetic orthography has been modernized and provided with its equivalent in syllabics. The story was also retranslated into English for the benefit of non-Cree speakers. Finally, a few minor adjustments and corrections were made to the text to facilitate its reading. This story was published on this blog on June 24, 2015.

The Snowman is a well known story along both coasts of Wînipekw, what is now commonly known as James Bay. This English version is inspired by two Cree versions of the story. The first was written by the late Annie Whiskeychan from Waskaganish. Her story was first published in 1974 by the now defunct Cree Way Project and again in 1993 by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. The second version was told by Xavier Sutherland, originally from Winisk, to C. D. Ellis who transcribed it, provided it with a gloss, and included it in a book titled Cree Legends and Narratives. This book was published by the Algonquian Text Society in 1995.

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