The Roc

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Ililiw nîpâ-kîwekopan e kî natawešket sâkahikanihk. Mitâwakâm pimâtakâskôpan. Ot eškan piminikâtahamokopan.
ᐃᓕᓕᐤ ᓃᐹ ᑮᐌᑯᐸᓐ ᐁ ᑮ ᓇᑕᐌᔥᑫᑦ ᓵᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᒃ᙮ ᒥᑖᐗᑳᒻ ᐱᒫᑕᑳᔅᑰᐸᓐ᙮ ᐅᑦ ᐁᔥᑲᓐ ᐱᒥᓂᑳᑕᐦᐊᒧᑯᐸᓐ᙮
The man must have been heading home at night after hunting beaver on the lake.  He was walking out on the ice and would have been carrying his chisel over his shoulder.

Mištasiwa mâka kî ohpaholikow. Kî wâpamew kotakiya ililiwa e wâštahowelici, eko mâka e iši-tepwet, “Mištasiw ni pimaholikw kîlawâw kâ wâštahoweyekw!”
ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐗ ᒫᑲ ᑮ ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᓕᑯᐤ᙮ ᑮ ᐙᐸᒣᐤ ᑯᑕᑭᔭ ᐃᓕᓕᐗ ᐁ ᐙᔥᑕᐦᐅᐌᓕᒋ, ᐁᑯ ᒫᑲ ᐁ ᐃᔑ ᑌᐺᑦ, ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐤ ᓂ ᐱᒪᐦᐅᓕᒄ ᑮᓚᐙᐤ ᑳ ᐙᔥᑕᐦᐅᐌᔦᒄ!
That’s when the Roc plucked him from the ground. Seeing men waving he cries out, “You who are waving! The Roc has taken me!”

Nâspic mâka e išpâpiskâlik kî iši-pakitaholikow ita e iši-itašelici.
ᓈᔅᐱᒡ ᒫᑲ ᐁ ᐃᔥᐹᐱᔅᑳᓕᒃ ᑮ ᐃᔑ ᐸᑭᑕᐦᐅᓕᑯᐤ ᐃᑕ ᐁ ᐃᔑ ᐃᑕᔐᓕᒋ᙮
It dropped him in a high rocky place where it brooded.

Môšak mâka kihcilâw Mištasiw e natawahot. Misiwe mâka tôwihkâna petaholew, atihkwa nešta môswa.
ᒨᔕᒃ ᒫᑲ ᑭᐦᒋᓛᐤ ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐤ ᐁ ᓇᑕᐗᐦᐅᑦ᙮ ᒥᓯᐌ ᒫᑲ ᑑᐎᐦᑳᓇ ᐯᑕᐦᐅᓓᐤ, ᐊᑎᐦᑾ ᓀᔥᑕ ᒨᔀ᙮
Now, the Roc would constantly fly off to hunt. It would bring back all kinds of animals, caribou and moose.

Ana ililiw nâspic kî nanâhîhkawew mištašîšiša e ašamât wacištonihk e ihtâlici. Misiwe kekwâliw tôtamawew.
ᐊᓇ ᐃᓕᓕᐤ ᓈᔅᐱᒡ ᑮ ᓇᓈᐦᐄᐦᑲᐌᐤ ᒥᔥᑕᔒᔑᔕ ᐁ ᐊᔕᒫᑦ ᐗᒋᔥᑐᓂᐦᒃ ᐁ ᐃᐦᑖᓕᒋ᙮ ᒥᓯᐌ ᑫᒀᓕᐤ ᑑᑕᒪᐌᐤ᙮
The man really took care of the young rocs as he fed them in their nest. He did everything for them.

Keka mihcetw waškwaya petahotâw Mištasiw. Eko ana ililiw pâsipitahk e wacištonihkawât mištasiwa.
ᑫᑲ ᒥᐦᒉᑦ ᐗᔥᑾᔭ ᐯᑕᐦᐅᑖᐤ ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐤ᙮ ᐁᑯ ᐊᓇ ᐃᓕᓕᐤ ᐹᓯᐱᑕᐦᒃ ᐁ ᐗᒋᔥᑐᓂᐦᑲᐙᑦ ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐗ᙮
By and by the Roc brings back much birch bark, which the man rips to pieces as he makes their nest.

Nâspic kispakihkwašikopan Mištasiw e nipât. šay mâka wawânelihtam ililiw ke tôtahk. Itelihtam, “Nika wî kakwe-nipahâwak. Mâhti! Nika saskahwâwak mekwâc e nipâcik waškwâhk e pimišihkik.” Keka peyakwâw mekwâc e nipâlici kî saskahwew eko wetatâmahwât ot eškan ohci. Misiwe mâka kî nipahew.
ᓈᔅᐱᒡ ᑭᔅᐸᑭᐦᑾᔑᑯᐸᓐ ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐤ ᐁ ᓂᐹᑦ᙮ ᐋᔕᔾ ᒫᑲ ᐗᐙᓀᓕᐦᑕᒻ ᐃᓕᓕᐤ ᑫ ᑑᑕᐦᒃ᙮ ᐃᑌᓕᐦᑕᒻ, ᓂᑲ ᐐ ᑲᑴ ᓂᐸᐦᐋᐗᒃ᙮ ᒫᐦᑎ, ᓂᑲ ᓴᔅᑲᐦᐙᐗᒃ ᒣᒀᒡ ᐁ ᓂᐹᒋᒃ ᐗᔥᒀᐦᒃ ᐁ ᐱᒥᔑᐦᑭᒃ! ᑫᑲ ᐯᔭᒀᐤ ᒣᒀᒡ ᐁ ᓂᐹᓕᒋ ᑮ ᓴᔅᑲᐦᐌᐤ ᐁᑯ ᐌᑕᑖᒪᐦᐙᑦ ᐅᑦ ᐁᔥᑲᓐ ᐅᐦᒋ᙮ ᒥᓯᐌ ᒫᑲ ᑮ ᓂᐸᐦᐁᐤ᙮
The Roc must have passed out hard when it slept. Now the man is already at a loss for what to do. He thinks to himself, “I’m going to have to try to kill them. Let me see, I’ll light them up as they lie asleep in the birch bark!” In due course, one day as they slept, the man lit them on fire and beat them with his chisel. He killed them all.

Eko mâka etelihtahk, “Tânte kê kî kîweyân?” Peyakw mâka mištašîšiša ospiskwanâliw e šîkwâhkahtelik pîhcišimolow. Eko tiyîhtipipalihot nâspic e išpâpiskâlik ohci. Keka kipihcipaliw. Walawîw. Itâpiw. Akâwâc tepâpahtam askîliw. Tâpiskôc aštâhkonak e aspišimonihkâniwahk išinâkwan e išinâkosicik mištikwak.
ᐁᑯ ᒫᑲ ᐁᑌᓕᐦᑕᒃ, ᑖᓐᑌ ᑫ ᑮ ᑮᐌᔮᓐ? ᐯᔭᒄ ᒫᑲ ᒥᔥᑕᔒᔑᔕ ᐅᔅᐱᔅᑾᓈᓕᐤ ᐁ ᔒᒀᐦᑲᐦᑌᓕᒃ ᐲᐦᒋᔑᒧᓗᐤ᙮ ᐁᑯ ᑎᔩᐦᑎᐱᐸᓕᐦᐅᑦ ᓈᔅᐱᒡ ᐁ ᐃᔥᐹᐱᔅᑳᓕᒃ ᐅᐦᒋ᙮ ᑫᑲ ᑭᐱᐦᒋᐸᓕᐤ᙮ ᐗᓚᐐᐤ᙮ ᐃᑖᐱᐤ᙮ ᐊᑳᐙᒡ ᑌᐹᐸᐦᑕᒻ ᐊᔅᑮᓕᐤ᙮ ᑖᐱᔅᑰᒡ ᐊᔥᑖᐦᑯᓇᒃ ᐁ ᐊᔅᐱᔑᒧᓂᐦᑳᓂᐗᐦᒃ ᐃᔑᓈᑾᓐ ᐁ ᐃᔑᓈᑯᓯᒋᒃ ᒥᔥᑎᑾᒃ᙮
He then thinks to himself, “How will I manage to get home?” Of the little rocs’ incinerated bodies, only their backs remained. Squeezing himself into one of these backs, he rolls himself down from that high rocky place. Eventually he stops rolling. He climbs out. He looks around. He can barely see the earth. The trees (look so small) they resemble a litter of boughs.

Eko mîna tiyîhtipipalihot. Mîna kipihcipaliw. Ewako ôma askiy.
ᐁᑯ ᒦᓇ ᑎᔩᐦᑎᐱᐸᓕᐦᐅᑦ᙮ ᒦᓇ ᑭᐱᐦᒋᐸᓕᐤ᙮ ᐁᐗᑯ ᐆᒪ ᐊᔅᑮ᙮
So he rolls himself down again and again he stops. This then is the earth.

Eko welawît. Eko miyâcît. Ililiwa otihtew ekâ e nihtâ-mîcisolici, piko e milâhtamilici. Ekwâni e tôtamilici e mîcisolici. Kî ašamikow mâka. Eko mâka peyakw ot awâšimišiliwa kâ kiskinawâpamikot e mîcisot.
ᐁᑯ ᐌᓚᐐᑦ᙮ ᐁᑯ ᒥᔮᒌᑦ᙮ ᐃᓕᓕᐗ ᐅᑎᐦᑌᐤ ᐁᑳ ᐁ ᓂᐦᑖ ᒦᒋᓱᓕᒋ, ᐱᑯ ᐁ ᒥᓛᐦᑕᒥᓕᒋ᙮ ᐁᒀᓂ ᐁ ᑑᑕᒥᓕᒋ ᐁ ᒦᒋᓱᓕᒋ᙮ ᑮ ᐊᔕᒥᑯᐤ ᒫᑲ᙮ ᐁᑯ ᒫᑲ ᐯᔭᒄ ᐅᑦ ᐊᐙᔑᒥᔑᓕᐗ ᑳ ᑭᔅᑭᓇᐙᐸᒥᑯᑦ ᐁ ᒦᒋᓱᑦ᙮
So he gets out and then starts off. He reaches a group of people that do not know how to eat for real – they only smell. That’s how they eat. So they fed him and one of their children learned how to eat by watching him.

Mîna mâka wetihtât aweliwa – ewakwânihi wîwa. Namawîla mâka ohci kiskelimikow wîwa wîla e âwit. Ôma mâka kî itew, “Nîla ô kâ kî kihtaholit Mištasiw!”
ᒦᓇ ᒫᑲ ᐌᑎᐦᑖᑦ ᐊᐌᓕᐗ – ᐁᐗᒀᓂᐦᐃ ᐐᐗ᙮ ᓇᒪᐐᓚ ᒫᑲ ᐅᐦᒋ ᑭᔅᑫᓕᒥᑯᐤ ᐐᐗ ᐐᓚ ᐁ ᐋᐎᑦ᙮ ᐆᒪ ᒫᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑌᐤ, ᓃᓚ ᐆ ᑳ ᑮ ᑭᐦᑕᐦᐅᓕᑦ ᒥᔥᑕᓯᐤ!
Again he reaches someone, this one is his wife. She does not know however that it is him (he must have been unrecognizable by then). So he says to her, “I am the one that was taken by the Roc!”


This story 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.

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The Fatherless Child

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Wâpihyeskwew is said to have been exceedingly beautiful, so much so that the men of her village vied to become her husband. Before being betrothed, however, Wâpihyeskwew mysteriously became pregnant and in time gave birth to a child whose father remained unnamed.

Naturally, the village became determined to identify the one responsible, so the men gathered in a lodge and sat around the firepit to resolve the issue. The baby, they decided, was to be passed around the circle until it felt the need to relieve itself. Whoever the baby peed on, it was declared, would be considered its father.

Infatuated by Wâpihyeskwew’s undying beauty, Ohômisiw was determined to have her as a wife. As the baby was passed from one to another, he started gathering his saliva in anticipation. When the infant finally reached him, he slavered himself and exclaimed, “The baby peed on me!” The man sitting next to him, however, would not be fooled. “Ohômisiw is a liar!” He  declared, “He gathered his saliva and slavered himself to try to fool us!”

Wâpihyeskwew translates as ‘ptarmigan woman’ and ohômisiw as ‘Great horned owl.’ Note that predator/prey relationships are traditionally expressed symbolically as romantic or even sexual relationships, including the relationships that exist between us humans and the animals we depend on.

Meso and the Months of the Year

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Having just recreated the world after the great flood, it was now time to send the animals back to their respective habitats. “Brothers and sisters! It is time for you all to go home,” said Meso, “but not before we decide how many months there will be in a year!”

Caribou spoke up first saying, “Brother, there should be as many months in a year as there are hairs between my hooves.”

“Little sister,” replied Meso, “Winter would last too long and the summer would never come. Man will never live to see the earth thaw.”

Loon then suggested, “Brother, there should be as many months in a year as there are spots on my back.”

“Little brother,” replied Meso, “Winter would last too long and the summer would never come. Man will never live to see the earth thaw.”

Toad then spread her fingers and toes out and exclaimed, “I wish there were this many months in a year!”

The animals just burst out laughing and in the commotion knocked Toad onto her back. “Have pity on our big sister!” says Meso, counting her digits. “Besides, she may be right! Our sister has six fingers and six toes, which would mean six months of winter and six months of summer!” As the animals counted her digits and pondered the suggestion, Meso continued, “With twelve months in a year, Man will never have to wait too long for the earth to thaw!”

In the end, the animals all agreed. With the number of months set at twelve, Meso allowed the animals to return to their respective habitats. And so it was. The earth had been recreated, the year had been set to twelve months, and the animals had all went home.

The Snowman

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Once upon a time, there was a young man who lived alone out in the woods. He hadn’t always been alone – his family had been with him until recently, but an unforgiving winter had gotten the best of them and they had all frozen to death. Fortunately, winter had soon drawn to an end and the white blanket that had covered the earth had withdrawn from the heat of the sun until there remained nothing but a few lonely patches of coarse, wet snow.

The young man, still grieving from the loss of his family, felt vindicated by the melt. As he approached a lonely patch he said, “Ha! What a miserable sight you are!” and kicked it. “You think you can just freeze everyone to death?” He added, tauntingly, “Well, here I am!” Suddenly, a chilling voice was heard that sent shivers down his spine as it replied, “Just wait till I return!” The young man stood aghast at the thought of the snow’s return and took a moment to collect his thoughts. To survive, he soon realized, he would have to be prepared. And so, he went straight to work, determined to withstand what would certainly be the coldest winter of his life.

Throughout the summer, the young man worked. He checked his net every day and harvested many fish, most of which he smoke-dried over a fire. The fish oil he collected into pails made of birch bark, which he stored in a cache with the dried fish. He then gathered firewood, especially dry wood that burns easily, and piled it up near his home. As the winter approached, he went to work on his winter lodge, a wigwam which he insulated with thick layers of moss. As the temperature dropped, he was troubled by the thought of seeing the snow return.

Finally, the winter was upon the young man. On the coldest of winter days, he sat by the fire and listened to the north wind blow. One evening as the night approached, the wind started howling. The young man, anticipating the worst, felt chills as he heard footsteps approach in the distance. Suddenly, the door flap blew open. With his eyes on the door, the young man watched in horror as a stranger whose body resembled snow entered his lodge. As the visitor seated himself on the opposite side of the fire, the lodge grew increasingly colder – frost covered the ground and climbed the walls as icicles formed from the ceiling. As the fire flickered, the young man was spurred into action.

Outside the lodge sat piles of firewood and pails of fish oil. The young man quickly retrieved his stash while his guest focused on freezing him to death. As the temperature dropped, he worked at rekindling the dying flames as they flickered in and out existence. Constantly adding firewood and oil, the flames gradually intensified to the point where the lodge had warmed back up.

The frost retreated and the icicles dripped. The young man looked over at his guest and noticed that he too was dripping. “That’s it!” Said the melting stranger. “I can’t stay here any longer, it’s way too hot!” As he rose to his feet in a hurry to leave, he added “You’ve bested me, so I’ll never bother you again.” Having met his match, never again would the snowman visit the young man who lived alone in the woods. The young man was simply too prepared.

Diving Duck

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Long ago, an individual named Diving Duck lived with another named Bear. One day, however, it occurred to Diving Duck that he should kill Bear. So, he devised a plan and told Bear they should climb to the summit of a mountain to find out how far Bear could see.

From the summit, Diving Duck asked Bear if he could see the line of mountains across the water. Bear said, “Yes, I can see that far.”

So Diving Duck asked, “Do you see the ridge beyond that?”

“Yes, but barely.” Said Bear.

“So do you see the line of mountains that lies even further?” Asked Diving Duck.

“No, I cannot see that far.” He replied.

“Okay! Climb down and build a lodge and I will fix your eyes so you can see better!” Said Diving Duck.

So they both climbed down. Upon reaching the foot of the mountain they built a sweat lodge. As soon as they finished, they heated some stones to warm the inside of the lodge.

Then, Diving Duck told Bear, “Go! Get inside and sing! But as you sing, be loud! And push your head against the covering so I will know that you are singing with all your might!”

Truly, Bear did just that.  As he was ordered, he sang loudly. And then, he pushed his head against the covering so that a bulge would be visible from the exterior. As for Diving Duck, he reached for his axe and struck it against the bulge that was Bear’s head. He struck it so fiercely that Bear was killed.

Diving Duck cut Bear’s body up and started cooking him. On that day, he ate much of Bear’s body. When he was finally certain that he had eaten too much, he headed towards the forest and positioned himself between the standing trees.

“Brothers!” He said to the trees, “Squeeze me!”

And truly they squeezed him as they brought themselves tightly around him.

Eventually, Diving Duck decided he had been squeezed enough and said, “Okay, brothers! Release me!”

But the trees would not move, and instead spoke amongst themselves saying, “He nearly devoured Bear and did not even give us anything to eat! Why should we release him?”

“If you do not release me,” warned Diving Duck, “I will call my young brother Thunderbird!”

But the trees still would not budge. So he called out saying, “Young brother Thunderbird! The trees will not release me!”

Suddenly, the Thunderbird rumbled. Upon hearing him, the trees became extremely frightened and released their captive. And at that, Diving Duck returned to finish eating Bear.

Diving Duck then went looking for some caribou. He finally spotted a herd and started shooting them two at a time. But every time he tried to kill one, Yellowlegs warned him before Diving Duck could do so. Eventually, however, he managed to thwart Yellowlegs and killed a large caribou full of fat. He almost consumed the whole caribou, but kept the stomach along with the caul fat for later.

He then spotted a flock of geese and called out to them, but the geese were afraid.

He tried to calm their fears, saying, “Don’t be afraid!” And then asked them, “Can I fly with you?”

The geese accepted and offered him some advice, saying, “Don’t ever look back! As a matter of fact, you will plummet if you look back!”

So Diving Duck took off and flew with them. But after some time, he felt like looking back and presumably did so. And what the geese had warned him would happen, happened, and he plummeted.

After his fall, Diving Duck got up and started walking again. After some time, he met two girls, both of which he later took as wives. He would then accompany them, walking to a place where others lived. There, two men had been thinking of taking those two women as wives as well. And so the men schemed, trying to find a way to rob him of his women.

Finally one said to the other, “Let’s hold a dance – we can ask Diving Duck and his wives to come!”

So they sent two youngsters to invite Diving Duck to the dance. As they arrived at his home, he was already in bed, lying right between his two wives.

“Obviously, I cannot go.” Was his response.

Not enthused, they returned to inform the others. Upon hearing the news, an elder pondered the situation.

“I know how to make him come to the dance,” said the elder, adding that he will go talk to Diving Duck and his wives.

The elder introduced Diving Duck to a couple of men with strange sounding names, telling him that these were his relatives. Diving Duck, puzzled, but liking the sound of the names, decided to accept the invitation to the dance. He left his wives behind, but not before he hung the caul fat taken from around the caribou’s stomach around his neck.

While he danced, the people ripped pieces from the fat hanging around his neck and ate it until there was nothing left. As he continued to dance, the two youngsters from earlier headed to his home to abduct his wives. There, where the women slept, the youngsters placed two tree stumps infested with ants, covering them to appear just like the women would when asleep.

After some time, Diving Duck returned home. In the darkness, he laid himself down between the ant-infested stumps, thinking they were his wives. As the ants start crawling over him and biting him, Diving Duck thought his wives were upset with him, so he asked, “Why are you pinching me? I was only out dancing with my strangely named relatives!” Nobody responded, of course, and the ants kept biting. Finally, Diving Duck decided to have a look and that’s when he discovered the ant-infested stumps and became furious!

As the morning approached, Diving Duck left his home, walked out into the lake, and stood in the water, steaming. The youngsters knew they were responsible, so they decided to paddle out to talk to him. Incensed, however, Diving Duck turned their boat over and nearly drowned them. The pair had angered him so much that he had wanted to kill them. Instead, however, he made them both drink up the water around him. Once their stomachs were filled with water, he stabbed the larger one with his spear, bursting his body. As the stomach expelled its contents, Diving Duck was once again surrounded by deep water.

The people on the shore decided not to pay him any more attention, lest they be killed as well. So they ignored him, for their own safety, as he stood in the water, dispirited. After this incident, Diving Duck was never to have any more wives.

Commentary on the above story available here.