Mary Cardinal Collins: wâpos-mêyisa, 1 Feb 2013

Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), white morph, Shirleys Bay, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Photographed by D. Gordon E. Robertson

Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), white morph, Shirleys Bay, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Photographed by D. Gordon E. Robertson

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]


About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, launched in 2010 with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.
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