In Memoriam: Cecilia Masuskapoe

With news yesterday of Cecilia Masuskapoe’s passing at Atahkakoop, we mourn the loss of a dear friend. We wish her good journey, happy reunions, and a well-earned rest from life of hard work that included hand-tanning buffalo hides, right into her 90s (scroll down for photographic proof!) CeciliaFreda

It was May of 2010 when I had the privilege of taking Freda Ahenakew to visit her old friend Cecilia – also known as kêkêk – at Atahkakoop. We had serious book business to complete. Freda had collected many of Cecilia’s stories over the years, and this was the trip in which Cecilia signed the publishing contract:

Cecilia Vignette front8piko kîkway ê-nakacihtât : kêkêk otâcimowina ê-nêhiyawastêki.
[There’s Nothing She Can’t Do: Kêkek’s Autobiography Published in Cree.]
mitoni ê-âh-itwêt mâna Cecilia Masuskapoe, itasinahamiyiwa ôhi nîso, H.C. Wolfart êkwa Freda Ahenakew.
[Exactly as told by Cecilia Masuskapoe, in a Critical Edition by H.C. Wolfart and Freda Ahenakew.]
Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics, Memoir 21, 2010.

Recorded precisely in Cecilia’s own words, the book was published only in Cree: a genuine reward for speakers who invest the time to learn SRO. The autobiography can now be found in libraries across North America. It is still available for sale (prepayment required) through the Department of Linguistics at the University of Manitoba.

Hide tanning 4

Cecilia tanning a hide – looking for all the world like a model for Allen Sapp.

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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