Rosanna Deerchild – Translated by Solomon Ratt (th-dialect, with audio)

Photo credit: Ashlyn Haglund, McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, 28 November 2015

Photo credit: Ashlyn Haglund, McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, 28 November 2015

It’s been exciting to see Rosanna’s beautiful book, Calling Down the Sky (Bookland, 2015) nominated for so many literary awards this spring. Rosanna’s telling of her mama’s residential school story brought tears to many eyes at the 47th Algonquian Conference last October, where I got to introduce Rosanna to Solomon Ratt. Both Sol and Rosanna’s mama, Edna, share the th-dialect as a mother tongue.

Rosanna is one of hundreds of thousands of children or grandchildren of residential school survivors whose birthright of Cree language and culture was stolen through the wilful destruction of residential school policy. Imagining the powerlessness of a child being condemned to hell for expressing themselves with the only words they knew, her vision from the beginning included translation into Cree as an additional act of restoration.

Sincere thanks to Rosanna and to Sol for permission to post this first translation here. The columns, I’m afraid, are not as pretty as they will be in print, but thanks to Sol’s recording, you can click the audio link and listen while you read along in SRO or syllabics.

Read more about Rosanna and Edna’s story: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/honouring-the-women-who-raised-us-1.3566232/poetry-as-witness-rosanna-deerchild-shares-her-mother-s-residential-school-story-1.3568662

9 August 2016: View re-cut CBC video here: https://www.facebook.com/CBCArts/videos/1247368635287002/

when i think of mama in residential school /
ispî kâ-mâmitonîthimak mâmâ ohpimî-kiskinwahamâtowikamikohk kâ-kî-ayât
ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳᒫᒥᑐᓃᖨᒪᐠ ᒫᒫ ᐅᐦᐱᒦ ᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑐᐏᑲᒥᑯᕽ ᑳᑮᐊᔮᐟ


when i think of mama in residential schoolispî kâ-mâmitonîthimak mâmâ ohpimî-kiskinwahamâtowikamikohk kâ-kî-ayâtᐃᐢᐲ ᑳᒫᒥᑐᓃᖨᒪᐠ ᒫᒫ ᐅᐦᐱᒦ ᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑐᐏᑲᒥᑯᕽ ᑳᑮᐊᔮᐟ
i think of my girls nimâmitonîthimâwak nitânisak ᓂᒫᒥᑐᓃᖨᒫᐘᐠ ᓂᑖᓂᓴᐠ
my sunnipîsimᓂᐲᓯᒼ
first to reach my horizonnîkân î-takosihk niwahthaw-kîsinôkwanimihkᓃᑳᐣ ᐄᑕᑯᓯᕽ ᓂᐘᐦᖬᐤᑮᓯᓅᑿᓂᒥᕽ
my moonnitipiskâwipîsimᓂᑎᐱᐢᑳᐏᐲᓯᒼ
a dream come truenipowâtamowin î-tâpwîpathikᓂᐳᐚᑕᒧᐏᐣ ᐄᑖᐿᐸᖨᐠ
long lithe limbssîkwâpî-kinokâtîwakᓰᒁᐲᑭᓄᑳᑏᐘᐠ
sweet berry mouthssîwâwa mînis mitônaᓰᐚᐘ ᒦᓂᐢ ᒥᑑᓇ
brown eyes shimmerosâwahcâpa cahcahkâtîpathinwaᐅᓵᐘᐦᒑᐸ ᒐᐦᒐᐦᑳᑏᐸᖨᓌ
skin burnished copperwasakay kosawihkasimihk sôniyâwâpiskᐘᓴᑲᐩ ᑯᓴᐏᕽᐊᓯᒥᕽ ᓲᓂᔮᐚᐱᐢᐠ
if the indian agent camekîspin sôniyâwikimâw pî-itohtîciᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᓲᓂᔮᐏᑭᒫᐤ ᐲᐃᑐᐦᑏᒋ
commanded give me your childrennitisiwâtik mîthin kicawâsimisakᓂᑎᓯᐚᑎᐠ ᒦᖨᐣ ᑭᒐᐚᓯᒥᓴᐠ
if the mounties camekîspin simâkanisak pî-itohtîtwâwiᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᓯᒫᑲᓂᓴᐠ ᐲᐃᑐᐦᑏᐚᐏ
demanded stand asidenititikwak îkatî-kapawiᓂᑎᑎᑿᐠ ᐄᑲᑏᑲᐸᐑ
if the government camekîspin okimâwowin pî-itohtîciᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᐅᑭᒫᐓᐏᐣ ᐲᐃᑐᐦᑏᒋ
declared it is the lawitwîw othasowîwin ômaᐃᑜᐤ ᐅᖬᓱᐑᐏᐣ ᐆᒪ
if they came for themkîspin pî-nâtâtwâwiᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᐲᓈᑖᑤᐏ
what would i dotânisi îtokî nikakî-itôtamohtayᑖᓂᓯ ᐄᑐᑮ ᓂᑲᑮᐩᐃᑑᑕᒧᐦᑕᐩ
would i call down the sunnikakî-nihci-tîpwâtâhtay cî pîsimᓂᑲᑮ ᓂᐦᒋ ᑏᑇᑖᑕᐩ ᒌ ᐲᓯᒼ
would i call down the moonnikakî-nihci-tîpwâtâhtay cî tipiskâwi-pîsimᓂᑲᑮ ᓂᐦᒋ ᑏᑇᑖᑕᐩ ᒌ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐏᐲᓯᒼ
if they came for my girlskîspin pî-nâtâtwâwi nitânisaᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᐲ ᓈᑖᑤᐏ ᓂᑖᓂᓴ
would i call down the skynikakî-nihci-tîpwâtîhtay cî kîsikᓂᑲᑮᓂᐦᒋᑏᑇᑏᐦᑕᐩ ᒌ ᑮᓯᐠ
what solace would i findkîko nahîthihtamowin nikakî-miskamohtayᑮᑯ ᓇᐦᐄᖨᐦᑕᒧᐏᐣ ᓂᑲᑮᒥᐢᑲᒧᐦᑕᐩ
there in the silenceikota kipihtowîwinihkᐃᑯᑕ ᑭᐱᐦᑐᐑᐏᓂᕽ

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, a not-for-profit-in-the-making with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.
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