Warning: This story includes what we might call “adult content” in English. Or simply an authentically Cree sense of humour.
Ida Tremblay-pan ī-ācimot nīhithaw ācathōhkāniwin kapīsiwin 2017 mistasiniy sākahikanihk oskāyak-kapīsiwinihk.
The late Ida Tremblay storytelling at the Cree Storytelling Camp 2017 at the Youth Haven, Big Stone Lake, Saskatchewan.
Ida Tremblay was a Cree Elder from La Ronge, Saskatchewan. She raised seven children on the trapline – a five- to six-day journey north of La Ronge by canoe – and taught them the land skills she had learned from her parents. She scraped moose hides in her backyard and shared teachings of traditional life with her community. She was parallel cousin of Solomon Ratt: their mothers were sisters, so he called her ‘nimis (older sister), and she considered our friend Christine Ravenis (who also appears in the video) as a “special daughter”. She passed in January 2019, at the age of 69.
This story was transcribed by Ben Godden with help from Solomon Ratt, and compiled in read-along video by Ben Godden. The reading edition of the story below provides a transcript of the Cree along with Ida’s own English re-telling of the story (very lightly edited to fill obvious gaps).
Thanks to Kevin Brousseau for listening with fresh ears and preparing his own transcription and including it in the Cree Mythological Index that he’s building in his own new blog: Cree Myths blog. Kevin’s version of this particular story can be found here here.
Ida Tremblay: W and his belt. Transcription by Ben Godden
Everyone who enjoyed Solomon Ratt’s Winter Solstice Storytelling is already looking forward to hearing more come February, which someone, somewhere, officially designated Indigenous Storytelling Month. This post provides event details, and an opportunity to review past storytelling.
Zoom Event Details – Mark your Calendar:
Zoom sessions will take place each Monday in February: 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd.
Sessions will be jointly hosted by Solomon Ratt and Ramona MacKenzie
Login links will be added here as soon as they are available.
Each sessions will begin at 7pm Central Standard Time.
(7pm in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 6pm in Alberta)
Truthfully? No real preparation is needed. Sol’s habit of alternating between Cree and English as he goes along is a great help to those (like me) who are struggling learners.
Of course, the stories differ with each telling: that is part of the story teller’s art. But part of my personal delight in Sol’s storytelling comes from knowing the stories well enough (at least in English) that, even as I listen to the Cree, I can follow the story’s structure, listen for the words I know well, understand the meaning of the hand gestures and sound effects, and (most importantly) be ready to laugh along with the real Cree speakers at the inevitable punchlines.
To make it easier to prepare (for those who want to), I’ve pulled together links to some of the most familiar stories here, all from assorted past Cree Literacy posts.
pitanê oski-askîwin 2021 kakî-ohpinênaw nêhiyawêwin.
ᐱᑕᓀ ᐅᐢᑭ ᐊᐢᑮᐏᐣ 2021 ᑲᑮ ᐅᐦᐱᓀᓇᐤ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ᙮
May we, in the new year 2021, all lift up the Cree language.
With thanks to all those who have shared their skill and knowledge with us this year, and to all those who have followed and taken new steps, learning to introduce themselves, beginning to read or sing along, or simply joining us in a little laugh as we play with language. As we look towards the new year, we wish you (you and us together!) continued success learning, speaking, and reading Cree: Every little success makes our Cree language stronger.
Those of us who were able to get in to the Zoom room had a great time listening to Sol’s 2020 Solstice treat that include six of the escapades of Wisahkecahk. The full video is too large to post here, but we were able to extract the audio that some listeners may enjoy. I’ll be adding written texts to this post as I’m able. They won’t be a precise match for the audio, because live storytelling frees the storyteller to adapt to his audience and to the moment, but I can promise they’re a lot of fun to hear!
Sol’s storytelling style provides lots of support for students by alternating between Cree and English, and by having fun making up voices for characters and even using sound effects.
The audio file embedded here includes the entire storytelling session.
The Sacred stories included those of the Flood, the Little Startlers, Birch Tree Markings, Wisahkecahk eating his own scab, and the Shut-Eye Dance. In the manner of traditional story tellers, Sol changes gears quickly from one to the next, stringing them along (along with his audience) one after another.
Join Solomon Ratt via Zoom to listen to traditional stories of wîsahkîcâhk, just like those told on long winter nights on the trapline in northern Saskatchewan. Stories will be told first in Cree, then followed by English translation.
â-mamâwaci-kinwâ(si)k tipiskâw “the longest night”
kâ-mamâwaci-cimâsik kîsikâw “the shortest day”
kâ-pê-kîwê-kîsikâk “when day(light) returns”
kâ-mêskocipayiki kîsikâwa “when the days turn/change”
kâ-kwêskiwêpahk “when the time/weather turns”
asê-kîwê-nîpin “going back home to summer” (adapted from Anishinaabemowin).
All in southern Plains Cree.
Change all instances of <ê> to <î> for northern Plains Cree and Woods Cree.
Change the one instance of <y> to <th> for Woods Cree.
Creator, bless me today
to be able to look at the good in people;
to be able to speak good of people;
to be able to listen to people;
to be able to think good thoughts about life.
Thank you, I give thanks to you.
Sol says he worked out this translation while out cross-country skiing – echoing Willie line by line, and prepared this karaoke video in the same style to support learners. Text follows below, so you can copy and sing along – with Sol, or with Willie himself.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 is one of the most widely recognized love poems on the planet. The strictly structured poetry that we think of as “classical” in English doesn’t need to be preserved to make it beautiful in Cree. Thanks to Solomon Ratt for providing us with this interpretation grounded in a Cree view of the natural world.
How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love you as far as my soul can jump to meet the sun and the moon;
I love you like the flower needs to drink the rain;
I love you like the wind that blows the seeds to grow.
A Covid-19 reminder from the world’s social distancing champ and your friends at creeliteracy.org. (Notice also the sôskwâc : sâskwâc “minimal pair“!) (Text thanks to Arok Wolvengrey; audio thanks to Solomon Ratt.)
ayapiw mâna sâskwâc.
kîsta mîna: sôskwâc ta-kî-ayapiyan.
“Sasquatch usually stays home. You too: just stay home.”