With thanks to Solomon Ratt – and his ability to thrive against all odds – for helping express these thoughts in Cree:
kimâmiyonêyimitinân mîna kimawimôstamâtinân kahkiyaw iyiniwak ohpimê wîkiwâhk ohci kâ-kî-nitawi-kiskinwahamâkosicik; ka-miyo-tôtâkosiyêk mîna ka-sôhkisiyêk. mistahi pê-âyiman kâ-mâmawi-kitimahikawêyêk mâka mîna kisôhkisinâwâw kiyâpic âtiht ê-pîkiskwêyêk kipîkiskwêwiniwâw êkwa osâm piko kahkiyaw kiyâpic ê-pimitisahamêk iyiniw-isihcikêwin. ahkamêyimok.
We think of you and we pray for you, all of you who went far from home to go to school. May you take comfort and have strength of spirit. You suffered a lot together but you are all strong, still some of you speak your languages and most of you still follow your cultural ways. Keep on keeping on.
Click the player below to listen and read along with Solomon. Click the link at the bottom of the page to download the sound file.
Please email me at creeliteracy<at>gmail.com if you’d like a higher resolution copy of this image for printing, or if you’d like a text-only copy. Thanks, Sol, for permission to share this work!
nikî-kitahamâkwak êkâ ta-pîkiskwêyân nêhiyawêwin
kâ-kiskêyihtamân êkwa kâ-wihtamân nitaskiy
kî-natonamwak – mâka kî-pwâhpinêwak –
ita ta-ohpikihtânowik oski-yâtisiwin
ê-mêstahikâtêk êkwa ê-kâsêhikâtêk
êkwa anihi itêyimisowina
‘okîskwêpêsk,’ ‘okihtimiw,’ ’macâyisiwin’
êkwa kahkiyaw kîkway
ana okimâwiwin kâ-oyastât
êkota pisikwastê-masinahikanâpiskohk ta-oyastâhk
On the threshold of a dream
They forbade me the use of my language
through which I know and name the world
My terms of order,
my metaphysical system,
my expressive cultural practices
They sought – but failed –
to make my consciousness of my cultural self
A tabula rasa – a blank slate –
on which to build a new cultural and social order
On which my Creeness was obliterated and erased
And the concepts of
‘drunkard,’ ‘lazy,’ ‘evil’
and every negative connotation of ‘Indian’
that ‘western Culture’ could create
would be re-inscribed on that blank slate