Mary Cardinal Collins: wâpos-mêyisa

tâns âta wîya nitôtêmitik!  

kayâs mâna wâpos-tâpakwêwin iskwêw-atoskêwin. nikâwiy mîna kî-itwêw mân ôhi wâpôs-mêyisa ê-maskihkîwahk.

Long ago snaring rabbit or hare for food was a woman’s job. Rabbit droppings were considered medicinal; that’s why I’ve chosen this name for my blog contributions!

The old ladies would also use the fur for blankets and clothing.  The fur would be cut into strips and woven into blankets, then covered with cloth much like the duvets are nowadays. I remember these warm blankets. The woven fur was also made into jackets for small children.


I was listening to HAWK radio on February 1st, 2013 about treaties (tipamâhtowin) in the wake of Idle No More. When the elders spoke, I understood most everything except for a couple of terms, then asked nikawiy for her input. The elders I remember were Cecil Nepoose Green, and Mrs Lena Small. There were others but I did not catch their names. These words stood out for me:

  •  wâsîyâw êkwa cîwêyâw ‘loud and clear’
  • kâ-wâpiskiwêt, wâpiskiwîyâs, both words for ‘môniyâw’ using the root for ‘white’.
  • ministikwan ‘island’, or as the Ojibwe say, “Turtle Island.”
    I’ve heard this term many times, and for the Treaty Six Hobbema/Saddle Lake area it is just ‘island’. nikawiy says mâna she has heard it in the sense of country: “ôki môniyâw ministikwahk.”
  • About Chief Theresa Spence:
    aw îskwêw mistapakwêt aya mîna itwêwak ê-kwatakihisot ‘she is making herself suffer’ or ‘making  a sacrifice’
    According to nikawiy, this is another word for fast. I did not hear the word iyiwanisihisot, a word I used to hear in reference to fasting for communion from my childhood days, so is this a Christianized word for Christian fasting before communion? (kâh-saskamok ‘taking of communion host’)
  • Another word for the Cree ritual fast is nikîsomok ‘I fast’ or kîkisomow ‘you fast’. This is the specific ritual of fasting for four days without water or food. I think this is why this word was not used for Theresa Spence’s fast, because she was taking in fish broth and water. The word mistapakwêt was used for the fasting during nipâhkwêsimowin [sundance/ thirsting/ raindance] ceremony.

I still have many more words and discussion points that arose that day.

Mary Cardinal Collins
Mary Cardinal Collins

êkosi pitamah.
mîna kîhtwâm.
Mary Cardinal Collins


[With thanks to Cree Literacy members for SRO spelling updates]

One Response

  1. Tapwe for leaving this article. I’m starting my preparation fasting for my yearly thirstdance I go to every summer (sundance). We (creator, moshum and kokhums) get ready by fasting in increments, such as 1 day, 2 day, 3 day and then finally the thirstdance. I usually like preparing instead of going in to the dance all dizzy from not preparing. As for myself, I’m a young 24 year old nakawe man who is learning both nehiyaw and nakawe (nehiyaw for now). I’ve been clean for 3 years now, and understand the importance of preservering our ways (hybrid maybe). I’ve been blessed with many gifts since I quit drinking, and I don’t regret a single day. I usually go by what my teacher tells me how to fast, and that is to sing in the morning, afternoon, and at sundown (suppertime), and then try make it to a sweat before or after to brighten up the fasting mood. I could say more, but I don’t want to put too much. Rest assured, I’m taking my time and learning for the future youth, who I know, will indeed need help to be shown the right road. As for language, I practice every kisikaw. I always tell myself ahkamiyomotan, and to always persevere. I also serve my country with the military reserves, and have finished my bachelors in arts attaining a degree in Aboriginal Justice and Criminology at the U of S. Anyways, enough about myself, thanks for the information.

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