This reminiscence — more bitter than sweet — is reprinted with Solomon’s permission from Arok Wolvengrey’s 2007 wawiyatâcimowinisa / Funny Little Stories Narrated by Cree-speaking students, instructors and Elders. The book, which contains about a dozen first-hand stories in Cree, can be purchased from Canadian Plains Research Centre. This story is written in Solomon’s Woods Cree (th-) dialect. Complete recording details appear at the end of this post.
(5) mōtha nītha Indian / I’m Not An Indian
kayās māna kā-kī-awāsisīwiyān ōtī māna nikī‑nitawi‑ayamihcikānān kistapinānihk ikotī māna ī‑nitawi‑kiskinwahamākosiyāhk. tahtw‑āskiy māna takwāki‑pīsim kā‑kī‑mācihtāyāhk ī‑kī‑nitawi‑kāh-kiskinwahamākosiyāhk ikota ōma residential schools kā‑kī‑icikātīki, ikotī kā-kī-itohtīyān, āh, Prince Albert Indian Student Residences kī‑isithihkātīw iyakw ānima. īkwa īkota māna mistahi māna awāsisak kī‑kitimākisiwak mistahi māna kī‑māh‑mawīhkātīwak onīkihikowāwa.
Long ago when I was a child we used to go to school over here, over there in Prince Albert was where we attended school. Every year we’d start in September, we’d go off to attend school there at the “residential schools” as they were called. That’s where we went, it was called Prince Albert Indian Student Residences, that’s what it was called. And while there the children used to be really desolate and they used to really cry for their parents, missing them a great deal.
aya, mīna mistahi mīna māna nikī-mōcikihtānān māna tahtwāw kā‑mātinawi‑kīsikāk, īkospī māna nikī‑kanawāpahtīnān, āh, cikāstīpathihcikana, picture shows nikī‑isithihkātīnān māna. iyakoni māna, mitoni māna nikī‑māh‑mōcikihtānān kā‑pōni‑wāpahtamāhk wīth āthisk māna ī‑nitawi‑mītawīyāhk wathawītimihk tāpiskōc māna nīthanān, āh, Pirates māna nikī‑mītawānān ikwa mīna Cowboys and Indians. ikosi māna kā‑kī‑isi‑mītawīyāhk, ikwa ōma kā‑kī‑pī‑is‑ōhpikiyāhk ōma mitoni māna, āh …, nikī‑wīnīthimisonān, mōtha nīthanān nīhithawak ta‑kī‑isi‑pimātisiyāhk ī‑itikawiyāhk māna. ikosi māna kā‑kī‑is‑ōhpikihikawiyāhk īkota kiskinwahamātowikamikohk.
Well, we also used to have a great deal of fun every time Saturday came around for at that time we used to watch, uh, movies, we used to call them “picture shows”. Those were the ones, we really used to have fun when we finished watching them for we’d go and play outside just like we were, well, we used to play “Pirates” and also “Cowboys and Indians”. That’s how we used to play, and at that time as we were growing up we really used to, uh … we had a very poor opinion of ourselves. We used to be told that we shouldn’t live like Cree people, that’s the way we were raised there at that school.
māka piyakwāw ōma ī-kī-nitawi-kanawāpahtamāhk Cowboys and Indians cikāstīpathihcikan, John Wayne ikota mīna kā-kī‑ayāt, ī‑kī-nōkosit, nikī-cīhkinīn, iyakw ānima nikī‑cīhkāpahtīn, nimithwīthihtīn ta‑wāpahtamān, John Wayne ta‑kanawāpamak. ikwa māna kā‑kī‑pōni‑wāpahtamāhk iyakoni aya māna nikī‑nitawi‑mītawānān Cowboys and Indians māka māna ī‑kī‑māwasakonitoyāhk. āh, piyakwāyihk ita Indians īkwa piyakwāyihk kotak Cowboys; ikwa māna nītha kapī māna nītha iskwīyānihk kā‑kī‑otinikawiyān. ikwa kītahtawī ōma ōta piyak kīsikāw nikī‑ati‑otinikawin, Indians īsa nītha ta‑ayāyān. āh, namōtha nikī‑cīhkīthihtīn, namōtha nītha Indian nikī‑nōhtī‑itakison ikota.
But this one time we were going to watch this Cowboys and Indians movie, and it had John Wayne in it. I liked it, I really enjoyed watching those ones, I liked to watch those, to watch John Wayne. Then when we had finished watching those ones, we used to go to play Cowboys and Indians and we’d gather ourselves together [choosing sides]. Ah, on one side were the Indians and on the other were the Cowboys. And I used to always be the one chosen last. Well, eventually on this one day I came to be chosen, and apparently I was supposed to be an Indian. Oh, I didn’t like that, I really didn’t want to be considered an Indian.
“mōtha nītha Indian,” nikī-itwān. “namōtha niwī‑Indianiwin!” ī-itwīyān.
“I’m not an Indian,” I said. “I’m not going to be an Indian,” I was saying.
“ēy,” itwīw ōta piyak nāpīw kā-kī-kanawīthimikoyāhk, supervisor kā‑kī‑itiht; “ēy, tāpwī kikitimākisin ikosi ī‑itīthihtaman. Indian athisk ōma kītha ta‑kī‑itīthimisoyan ikos īsi ī‑itakisoyan,” nikī-itikawin.
“Hey,” said this one man who looked after us, he was called the “supervisor”. “Hey, you’re really pitiful thinking that way. You should think of yourself as an Indian because that’s what you are,” I was told.
mōtha nītha Indian / I’m Not An Indian
otācimow / Storyteller: Solomon Ratt
nīhithāwiw / a Woods Cree man
āmaciwīspimowinihk ī-ohcīt / from Stanley Mission, SK
niyānanomitanaw nīsosāp ī-itahtopiponīt / 52 years of age
kiskinwahamawākan / Student Transcriber: Jacyntha Laviolette
On February 13, 2006, Linguistics student Jacyntha Laviolette recorded Cree professor Solomon Ratt as he told, in the Woods Cree dialect, this story from his residential school experiences. Jacyntha then began the transcription and translation of the text as a project for the CREE 411 (Seminar in Cree Morphology) course taught by Arok Wolvengrey in the Winter term of 2006 at the First Nations University of Canada.
Arok Wolvengrey, with the help of Jean Okimāsis, then sought to complete the work on the text, before turning to the ultimate authority, Solomon himself, who filled in the final details which had escaped those less familiar with Woods Cree.