Kiseyiniw kâ wî mâyi-tôtawât otihkwatima

Nôhtâwîpan mekwâc kâ kî pimâtisit mistahi mâna kî âcimow e kî wâpahtahk mîna âtiht e kî pehtahk kekwâyiw. E kî âcimot peyakwâw e kî natohtawak, ekote kâ kî ayâcik pisisikNakawiyiniwak kî wîci-ohpikimewak.

Mâcika peyakwâw, itwew, peyakw kiseyiniw kî otihkwatimiw peyakw nâpewa, mâka namawîya ohci-sâkihew. Pisisikw kî kakwe-mâyi-tôtawew. Peyakwâw e kîsikâk kî wîsâmew kita mâcîcik, mâka ekospi kîskitâsa piko kâ kî isihocik kayâsi-iyiniwak mîna e kî mohci-kîsowahpisocik tastawic oskâtiwâhk. Ekosi mâcika kî kapesiwak etokwe, itwew, mohci-kotawânihk. Ana nâpew kî kehcikonam otâsa mîna omaskisina, ekosi mistikw mâna kî cimatâwak ispimisihk iskotêhkânihk, ekota e akotâcik maskisina mîna mitâsa kita pâsteki. Mekwâc e kwâhkotek iskotew kî kawisimowak e ati-tipiskâk. Kî kiskeyihtam mâka ana nâpew kita asweyimât osisa ekâ kita mâyi-tôtâkot. Ana kiseyiniw, e ayeskosit, semâk kî nipâw, mâka ana nâpew kî otinam otâsa mîna omaskisina. Pâtimâ, kiseyiniw kî koskopayiw. E kî nipâsit aciyaw kî waniskâw, ekwa kâ ati-pasikôt, e ati-otinahk anihi maskisina, mâka namawîya kî kiskeyihtam wîya ôma otâsa kâ otinahk. Macosteham iskotehk. Iteyihtam otihkwatima otayâniyiwa. Ispi e kiskeyihtahk e iskwâteyiki kî wîhtamawew otihkwatima e itât “Sawâskitew kekwây!” Mâka ana nâpew wîhtamawew âsay wîya e kî otinahk otayâna. Ekwa ana kiseyiniw kâ papâsiniket, âta e wî otinahk otayâna, mâka âsay kî mestihkahteyiwa. E kekisepâyâk kisâtinew otihkwatima, mâka ana nâpew kî kîwew e kî âcimot kita nâtimiht osisa. Mistahi mâka kî mâkohisow ana kehte-nâpew mîna kiskinohamâsow ekâ wîhkâc mîna ekosi kita tôtahk!

Ekosi ôma kâ isi-âcimot nôhtâwîpan.

The above story was told in clear Plains Cree by William Harris and was published in 1948 in H. E. Hives’ A Cree Grammar. The story is a particular episode of the evil father-in-law myth, one that is common across Cree country with only minor variations. In this well-known episode, the father-in-law tries to burn his son-in-law’s leggings and moccasins while camping overnight on a winter hunting expedition. The son-in-law, being quite clever, turns the tables on his father-in-law.

Hives’ transcription is quite clear, though it is based on English phonetics. The above transcription is therefore an adaptation written in the contemporary Cree orthography, which is both phonologically and morphologically informed. Punctuation was modified to improve the clarity of the story and two changes to the original wording were done, one being a correction of what was assumed to be a misspelling and the other an omission of a short string of words that appeared out of context. The changes made are as follows:

1. In the original, “â iskotâyike” is assumed to be “e iskwâteyiki” and was spelled as such.

2. In the original, “wekataw-âkwu-âtokwâ,” which appears to be “wî kâtâw ekwa etokwe,” was omitted. Hives translated this as “later on, it seems.” As it did not seem to make sense in the the context of the sentence, nor the story, it was omitted in favour of clarity.

ᐅᒉᒃ ᐊᑕᐦᒄ

Few constellations can be said to carry the same name across the various dialects of the Cree language. But one such constellation is the Big Dipper, known across Cree country as ᐅᒉᒃ ᐊᑕᐦᒄ, meaning ‘fisher constellation.’

The fisher, called ᐅᒉᒃ in Cree, is a kind of marten that is also known as the pekan in English. The second word in the compound, ᐊᑕᐦᒄ, literally means ‘star,’ but is synecdochically applied to the constellation itself. This constellation’s name was certainly inherited from Old Cree given its wide distribution and the fact that the second word in the compound has since undergone changes in most dialects in all instances except within the compound itself. For example, a star is now known in the East Cree dialect by the diminutive form ᐊᒐᐦᑯᔥ.

The mythological origins of this constellation was recorded by Harald Pommerehnke in the 1950s. Pommerehnke was a German immigrant who spent the first couple of years in Canada in Senneterre, a town that bordered the territory of the Waswanipi Cree. It was there that a Cree person related the following story, which he published in 1996.

The Big Dipper was created according to the Cree when a group of hunters chased a fisher. But the fisher escaped high up into a tree. They tried to shoot him down with arrows, but arrows would not reach him. So they went to get the best marksman who came and hit the fisher in the tail with an arrow and broke his tail. That is why today we see the Big Dipper with a slightly broken tail after his escape into the heavens.

Pommerehnke, Harald (1996) Experiences and Observations Among the Lake Simon Algonkin and the Waswanipi Cree: Early 1950’s. Manuscript donated to the Museum of Civilization, Hull.

The Roc

sinbad_giant_roc

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.