Niska Napoleon: Reclaiming Cree Identity

She may not have intended this as more than a Facebook post, but there’s a special fierceness to this statement from Niska Napoleon ( – who is clearly not the first rock star in her family – as she reflects on the power of her personal Cree heritage. Thank you, Niska, for encouraging others to do the same, and for permission to share your thoughts here.

Niska writes:

Thanks to the Nehiyawewin group for reminding me of my Plains Cree history. This is Poundmaker aka pîhtokahânapiwiyin, my great x4 grandfather, a plains Cree chief known as a peacemaker and defender of his people. As you can see, he is a badass hero rocking dreads of hair each one representing an accomplishment. 

PoundmakerThe more I learn about my people, the more proud I am of who I am and where I come from. Here in Canada, a place where few originated, and both land and culture were taken, so that I grew up carrying a white name given to my family so our true history would remain unknown.

It is with legacies like those of Poundmaker, like my kookum who only spoke Dene and Cree and lived traditionally, and both my mother and father who have kept cultural teachings in my life since I was born that remind me of my true identity. 

If my people had been left in peace, I would be known as wapikwaniy and my family name would be kanewopasikot (grizzly that stands on all fours)
Daughter of a chief and daughter of a mother who possesses great gifts with the spirit world. My role would probably have something to do with healing as my intuitive gifts would lead me and I would probably still be single because I would settle for no less than a great warrior! 🙂  

It is our role now to remember who we are, where we came from and give back what was taken. Not blaming but rebuilding, not allowing the shame of being native to prevent us from being who we really are…true warriors!

We have been broken, our generation deals with the weight of those fractures, our land and I mean “our” as human beings is still being raped by corporations below our very noses only for greed not sustainability and many are still unaware or unwilling to care but it is not too late.

I believe we can save this earth, I believe we can change the world, I believe that through art and music we can connect with the vibrations our our souls and come together.

Do you?

2 Responses

  1. Awesome words Niska….and yes reclaim our Ancestral names….I’ve already reclaimed kohkom’s name (it was done through ceremony and she was delighted). One of the TRC’s calls to action is for the Provincial Governments to waive the cost of issuing new documentation – they are doing it for the Fire Families, why can’t they do it for those of us reclaiming ancestral heritage.

  2. Thank you, Niska Napoleon (Wapikwaniy Kanewopasikot) for your insightful article. I, too, believe intuitively that we can save this earth and heal its inhabitants through the joyful vibrations of art and music. To your readers, Arden Ogg, I ask, why wait? We can begin healing the earth and ourselves now through the use of colour and sound. We could uplift our spirits collectively by singing, dancing, laughing, praying, painting, and enjoying nature’s colours.

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