“A poor opwâsimow becomes chief” told by sâkêwêw (Adam Sakewew)


Recorded by Leonard Bloomfield on the Sweetgrass Reserve (Saskatchewan)
retranslation by Neal McLeod 12.18.2012

“A poor opwâsimow becomes chief”

Told by sâkêwêw (Adam Sakewew) (note 1)
[This is the second of the texts that Neal will be posting the work on Facebook (and here on the Cree Literacy Network). As he prepares them, new segments will be added to the end. Neal would appreciate your help so that we can collectively have the best translation possible. kinânaskomitinâwâw. Thank you everyone. He has changed the numbering a bit in this translation. If you could post the answer to some of the questions raised in the notes, that would be tâpwê miywâsin.
As Neal says, “Please contribute your understanding to this translation so that we can use these narratives/ texts to retrieve of cree linguistic consciousness.”]

1.1 kîtahtawê apwâsimowak mihcêtiwak, mîna mikiwâhpa micêtinwa.
At one time there were a great many Nakota, and there were many lodges (of theirs).

1.2 pêyak opwâsimow oskinîkiw mistahi kitamâkisiw.
And there was one young Nakota who was very pitiful.

1.3 namâwiya owâhkomâkana pimâtisiyiwa. “tâpwê nikitimâkisin,” itêyihtam.
None of his relatives were still alive. “Truly I am pitiful,” (note 2) he thought.

1.4 êkwa mîna nôtokêsiwa (note 3) kêkâc, kakwêcimêw,
He then asked his wife who was almost an old woman,

1.5 “awiyak cî kiwâhkomâkan pimâtisiw? kôhtawiy? kikâwiy? kisîm? kistês? kimis? nam-âyak cî pimâtisiw?”
“Are any of your relatives alive? your father? your mother? a young sibling? your older brother? your older sister? are none of them alive?”

1.6 êkwa omisi ititik, “mitonê namâwiyak.”
And she said to him, “Truly, there is not one of them left.”

1.7 “êkwa tâpwê kikitimâkisinânaw ahkamêyimo ê-atoskêyan.”
“Then truly we are pitiful. Keep on working.”

1.8 “niya mîna nik-âhkamêyimon (note 4), ôta kâ-wîkihkâmayahk kit-âtoskawâyahkok ta-pimahâyahkok, ôma ita kâ-wîkihkêmayahk.”
“I too will persist, here with the people that we live with. We can (will) work hard and provide for the people where we live.” (note 5).

1.9 “êha,” itik.
“Yes,” she said to him.

2.1 ê-piponiyik êkw atoskêwak. ê-miyoskamik ê-ahtakêwiht papâmohtêw.
In the spring, when ________________ (passive verb construction) (note 6), he wandered about.

2.2 mâtokahpihk (Note 7) potê miskam mîkwana êkwa piwâpiskwa êkwa kîwêhtatâw; owîkimâkan miyêw.
And there in an abandoned lodge he found something: a feather and a metal object and brought them home to give to his wife.

2.3 ”nah ôhi kanawêyihta,” itêw.
“Here, take care of these,” he said to her.

2.4 êkwa manimisâskwatwêw; acapiya mîna osihêw. nistanaw niyânanosâp (Note 8) osihtaw acosisa. êkwa astawêw. kîsihtaw kahkiyaw.
He then gathered spruce-wood and he made a bow and made 25 arrows. And he put them on. (note 9)

2.5 êkwa pîhtatwâna (note 10) kaskikwatêw.
And the he sewed a quiver.

2.6 êkwa ispatinâhk itôhtêw, ê-wîhkwêstêyiki mîkiwâhpa ê-kitâpahtahk.
And he went to the top of the hill, and looked at the lodges which stood in a circle.

2.7 wâpahtam mîkiwâhp pihcêyis, ê-cimatêyik.
And he saw one pitched lodge inside of the circle.

2.8 itêyihtam, “wêyotisiw nâha.” mahti nika-nitawi-kakwêcimâw.
He thought, “He is rich. Perhaps I will go and ask him.”

2.9 “nika-nitawi-âtâmaw atimwa pêyak ôhi ohci nîpisisa”, itêyihtam.
“I will go and try to buy a dog with these willow branches,” he thought.

3.1 itôhtêw ê-otâkosiniyik, mihcêt ê-wâpamat atimwa (note 11), otâpânâskwa (note 12), atim-ôtâpânâskwa. êkwa ê-pîhtokêt, pôti apiyiwa napêwa.
He went in the evening, and he saw many dogs, sleds, dog sleds. he entered (the lodge), and there was sitting a man.

3.2 “tawâw, oskinikiw,” itik, “hâw, ta-mîcisiw.”
“There is room, young man,” he said to him, “come and eat.”

3.3 asamâw. ê-kîsî-mîcisot, miyêw.
he fed him. when he had finished eating, he gave him things.

3.4 “ôh-ohci (note 13) kâ-pê-itôhtêyân acosisa, ‘mâskoc pêyak miyici acimosisa,’ ê-itêyihtamân, k-oh-pîhtokêyân (note 14)
“I (note 15) have come with these arrows (thinking), ‘Perhaps I will be given a puppy.’ I thought this, and that is why I have entered your lodge.

3.5 “êha (note 16), kika-miyitin.” (note 17)
“I will give you some.”

3.6 têpakohp ihtasiyiwa.
there were seven in number

3.7 “âsay pahkwâpiwak ôki acimosisak. êwakoni kimiyitin. êkwa okâwiwâw, acimosisak okâwiwâwa.
“already these puppies eyes have opened

3.8 kitatamihin (note 18) ôhi kâ-pê-miyiyan.
you please me with these things that you have given me.

3.9 êkwa iskwêwak (note 19) postamohêwak kiskânakwa ôhi k-âtâwêhiht.
the women harnessed the ones who had been sold (note 20)

4.0 kêka-tipiskayiw asây.
it had already gotten dark.

4.1 nayomêw acimosisa kahkiyaw.pimitisahak ôhi kiskânakwa.
he carried on his back all of the puppies. the mother (of them) followed.
4.2 owîkimâkana kitotêw, “pê-wayawî!”
he called to his wife, “come outside!”

4.3 wayawîw awa iskwêw.
this woman went outside,

4.4 ‘sakahpis ôhi otawâsimisa (note 21) kita-nohêw.
‘tie her up so that her children suckle from her.’

4.5 sakahpitêw. asamêw ôhi atimwa.
she tied her up. she fed this dog.

4.6 âsay (note 22) mîna kotaka kîskikaham misâskwatwa.
already he cut more spruce sticks.

4.7 kiyapic êwako tôhta, nîsitanaw niyânanosâp âsay mina ôsihtâw.
again he made twenty-five arrows.

4.8 ê-kîsihtât, âsay mîna ispatinâhk itôhtêw.
when he finshed this, he again went to the top of the hill.

4.9 âsay mîna kitâpahtam mîkwahpa.
again he look down at the lodges.

note 1: does someone know the descendants of this man today? Who is this storyteller’s family?

note 2: it is interesting to note that being pitiful is seemingly equated to a lack of relatives, rather a lack of wealth.

note 3: in more contemporary Cree the stem for “old lady” is more commonly rendered as “nôtokwêsiw.”

note 4: this reminds me of the classical cree saying that i remember my late father saying, “kaya pâkâcî! ahkamêyimo!” (don’t quit! persist!)

note 5: It is interesting to note that despite being in this state of being (pitiful), the nakota man wants to contribute to the well being of the people that he and his wife live with.

note 6: passive verb- sounds like, “when he had his camp moved” or “when he moved camp”. need help with the stem “ahtakêw-.”

note 7: the word “mâtokohp“ needs more research.

note 8: the counting here is a bit more old fashioned. Instead of “25” as nitanaw ayiwak niyanan it is said as “nistanaw niyânasap” – which literally means 20 and 15. This form is common in many years today in northern Saskatchewan. It would be interesting to try and figure out when the change occurred in this element of counting.

note 9: implying the feathers on the arrows.

note 10: i would like to do more research on this stem.

note 11: dogs played a key role in plains cree culture- but their importance declined with the introduction of horses.

note 12: otâpânâsk today means “truck” or “vehicle.” It means to “carry something something. câpân (great-grandparent or great-child) is derived from this stem. Related words: iskôtêw-otâpânâsk: train (literally “fire wagon); nôtiniwi-otâpânâsk– tank (suggested by wayne goodspirit).

note 13: interesting reduplication of “ohci.”

note 14: pitohkwê is a more common stem in contemporary plains cree.

note 15: i have decided to drop capitalizations in the english translation to not only correspond to cree conventions, but to also destabilize english. [Arden’s note: I’m not sure English needs Neal’s help with this!]

note 16: âha is more common in contemporary plains cree.

note 17: the notion of reciprocity – e.g. exchange – was a key element in traditional plains cree culture; and today forms the basis for ethical research in a contemporary context.

note 18: i think that “you please me” is a better translation here than the more obvious “thank you.”

note 19: women generally owned the dogs of the Cree, so it would be interesting to find out if they delegated the authority to trade them to the man of the lodge.

note 20: it is interesting that atâwê seems to have a deeper meaning of “trade” rather than just “sell.”

3 Responses to “A poor opwâsimow becomes chief” told by sâkêwêw (Adam Sakewew)

  1. Sauve ( Fred) says:

    Tansi..i am Oji-Cree from Ontario and i was wonderin’ how do i purchase a Book in Plains Cree Language.

  2. Pingback: A new segment added: “A Poor Opwasimow Becomes Chief” | Cree Literacy Network

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *