Tyrone Tootoosis, Sr. In Memoriam

mahti ka-wî-miyo-pimohtêhow ta-atamiskâkot kahkiyaw kâ-sawêyimikot otâniskôhâkana.

May he journey well and be welcomed with love by the ancestors.*

It’s hard to believe a year has now elapsed since the passing of this passionate and courageous keeper of Cree language and culture. Tyrone Tootoosis, Sr. left us on February 12th, 2017. As his friends and family prepare to feast his memory, we are grateful to acknowledge some of the vast legacy that Tyrone left for us.

Marius Paul, who attended university with Tyrone, passed on to us a Youtube Video that Tyrone created in 2012. The video consists of a collection of archival photos from Tyrone’s personal collection, and a dramatic narration in Cree, all labelled “Poundmaker”.

Although we at the Cree Literacy Network don’t know the precise details that surrounded the creation of this video, several members of our network have worked together to transcribe Tyrone’s words in SRO, and translate them into English. They are presented here along with the video for the benefit of those who would like to hear Tyrone’s voice and read along. A syllabic transliteration of the text also follows, along with a section from Norma Sluman’s 1967 dramatized Poundmaker biography.

We hope through this gesture to pay tribute to Tyrone’s importance as a cultural educator and language keeper. We also hope to help further share Tyrone’s  tribute to his direct ancestor, pîhtokahânapiwiyin (Poundmaker), who was the brother of Tyrone’s own Great-great-grandfather, Yellow Mudblanket. Finally, we also hope to create yet another small tool to support literacy in the Cree language and culture that Tyrone valued as highly as we do.

pêyakwan kiyawâw kâ-kîsi-nôtinikêyêk ôta waciy ispîhk kâ-mâyahkamikahk. mâka kîhtwâm piko âsay mîna ka-nôtinikêyêk, ka-sôhki-nôtinikêyêk, ka-nôtinisoyêk, ôma, mastaw mâmitonêyihcikan; êkâya, êkâya tapahtêyimisoyêk. It’s the same for you all, when you were finished fighting here at the hill [Cutknife] during the Resistance. But already once again you have to fight, you’ll have to fight hard, you’ll have to fight with yourselves, [because of] this new way of thinking: Don’t, don’t think little of yourselves.
môy âyis misawâc êwako tâpwêwin. âta êtikwê, âta misawâc ka-wêhcasin sôskwâc êkâ nânitaw kê-tôtamihk, isko mwâc aya, êkây ka-naskwâhk.Because this at any rate is not the truth. Although I guess, it will be easy just to not do anything, to keep the peace and not retaliate.
k-êtwêhk, “niya, ay-isi-pêyakoyân, namôya nânitaw nika-kî-itôtên.” êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik ayisiyiniwak, êkwa kâ-isi-waskawîcik, koskostâtikwan.It is said: “Me, I’m all by myself, I cannot do anything.” That’s how the people think, and how they spend their lives, in fear.
kikiskêyihtênânaw anima âcimowin: ana nâpêw ê-kisâtapit sisonê mêskanâhk osâm kinwês. kî-ohpikiniyiw. namôya kîhtwâm kî-miskamow mêskanaw. namôya wîhkâc ka-kî-wanikiskisinânaw tânisi ôta ê-pê-ispayik. mâka, namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw. namôya mîna pimicâyihk mêskanâhk ka-kî-ay-apinânaw.We know that story: that man who stays sitting by the trail too long. It becomes overgrown. One can no longer find the trail. We can never forget how it came to pass here. But, we can also not go back. Nor can we sit beside the trail.
kipakitinikowisininaw, kinêhiyaw-pimâtisiwininaw kiskinohtêmakan. mâka namôya ka-kî-sâsakitapiyahk, kwayaskâpawistamahk. namôya mîna ka-kî-môniyâhkâsoyahk.Our gift, our Cree life, is a guide. We cannot just sit back, we must stand up. Neither can we act like Whitemen.
kimâwimoscikêwininaw kêyâpic miywâsin. âtayôhkanak kêyâpic kiwîcihikonawak. nimistêyihtên, nikiskêyihtên. ninêhiyawi-pakitinikowisiwiwin, anohc kêyâpic nisâkihtân, nitayisiyiniw-nêhiyâwiwin, nêhiyaw.Our ceremonies remain good. The spirits still help us. I respect that, I know that. My Cree gift, I still love that today. My being a Cree person. Nêhiyaw.
namôya nânitaw. namôya nânitaw. namôya nânitaw nikî-itôtên.Not anything. Not anything. I didn't do anything.
namôya wîhkâc ka-kî-wanikiskisinânaw tânisi ôta ê-pê-ispayik, namôya nânitaw. êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik ayisiyiniwak.We can never forget how it came to pass here, not ever. That’s how the people think.
namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw. namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw. namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw.Nor can we go back. Nor can we go back. Nor can we go back.
êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik, êkos-~, êkos-~, êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik.That’s how they think, that ~, that ~, that’s how they think.
ᐯᔭᑿᐣ ᑭᔭᐚᐤ ᑳ ᑮᓯ ᓅᑎᓂᑫᔦᐠ ᐆᑕ ᐘᒋᕀ ᐃᐢᐲᕽ ᑳ ᒫᔭᐦᑲᒥᑲᕽ᙮ ᒫᑲ ᑮᐦᑤᒼ ᐱᑯ ᐋᓴᕀ ᒦᓇ ᑲ ᓅᑎᓂᑫᔦᐠ, ᑲ ᓲᐦᑭ ᓅᑎᓂᑫᔦᐠ, ᑲ ᓅᑎᓂᓱᔦᐠ, ᐆᒪ, ᒪᐢᑕᐤ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᒋᑲᐣ ᐁᑳᔭ, ᐁᑳᔭ ᑕᐸᐦᑌᔨᒥᓱᔦᐠ᙮
ᒨᕀ ᐋᔨᐢ ᒥᓴᐚᐨ ᐁᐘᑯ ᑖᐻᐏᐣ᙮ ᐋᑕ ᐁᑎᑵ, ᐋᑕ ᒥᓴᐚᐨ ᑲ ᐍᐦᒐᓯᐣ ᓲᐢᒁᐨ ᐁᑳ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᑫ ᑑᑕᒥᕽ, ᐃᐢᑯ ᒹᐨ ᐊᔭ ᐁᑳᕀ ᑲ ᓇᐢᒁᕽ᙮
ᑫᑘᕽ, “ᓂᔭ, ᐊᕀ ᐃᓯ ᐯᔭᑯᔮᐣ, ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᓂᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᐣ᙮” ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ ᐊᔨᓯᔨᓂᐘᐠ, ᐁᑿ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᐘᐢᑲᐑᒋᐠ, ᑯᐢᑯᐢᑖᑎᑿᐣ᙮
ᑭᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑌᓈᓇᐤ ᐊᓂᒪ ᐋᒋᒧᐏᐣ : ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᐁ ᑭᓵᑕᐱᐟ ᓯᓱᓀ ᒣᐢᑲᓈᕽ ᐅᓵᒼ ᑭᓊᐢ᙮ ᑮ ᐅᐦᐱᑭᓂᔨᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᑮᐦᑤᒼ ᑮ ᒥᐢᑲᒧᐤ ᒣᐢᑲᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᐑᐦᑳᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐘᓂᑭᐢᑭᓯᓈᓇᐤ ᑖᓂᓯ ᐆᑕ ᐁ ᐯ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᐠ᙮ ᒫᑲ, ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᐱᒥᒑᔨᕽ ᒣᐢᑲᓈᕽ ᑲ ᑮ ᐊᕀ ᐊᐱᓈᓇᐤ᙮
ᑭᐸᑭᑎᓂᑯᐏᓯᓂᓇᐤ, ᑭᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐱᒫᑎᓯᐏᓂᓇᐤ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᑌᒪᑲᐣ᙮ ᒫᑲ ᓇᒨᔭ ᑲ ᑮ ᓵᓴᑭᑕᐱᔭᕽ, ᑿᔭᐢᑳᐸᐏᐢᑕᒪᕽ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑲ ᑮ ᒨᓂᔮᐦᑳᓱᔭᕽ᙮
ᑭᒫᐏᒧᐢᒋᑫᐏᓂᓇᐤ ᑫᔮᐱᐨ ᒥᔼᓯᐣ᙮ ᐋᑕᔫᐦᑲᓇᐠ ᑫᔮᐱᐨ ᑭᐑᒋᐦᐃᑯᓇᐘᐠ᙮ ᓂᒥᐢᑌᔨᐦᑌᐣ, ᓂᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑌᐣ᙮ ᓂᓀᐦᐃᔭᐏ ᐸᑭᑎᓂᑯᐏᓯᐏᐏᐣ, ᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑫᔮᐱᐨ ᓂᓵᑭᐦᑖᐣ, ᓂᑕᔨᓯᔨᓂᐤ ᓀᐦᐃᔮᐏᐏᐣ, ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ᙮
ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᓂᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᐣ᙮
ᓇᒨᔭ ᐑᐦᑳᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐘᓂᑭᐢᑭᓯᓈᓇᐤ ᑖᓂᓯ ᐆᑕ ᐁ ᐯ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᐠ, ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ᙮ ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ ᐊᔨᓯᔨᓂᐘᐠ᙮
ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮
ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ, ᐁᑯᐢ~, ᐁᑯᐢ~, ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ᙮

Reviewing the English translation, one member of the CLN observed that the text had an striking resemblance to the phrases often quoted – in English – as the final words of Poundmaker. The source of those words was identified as Norma Sluman’s 1967 biography, which she herself calls a dramatization. While we can’t know what Poundmaker actually said word-for-word in Cree, we do know that, like Norma Sluman, Tyrone had access to oral history about Poundmaker from John B. Tootoosis and all the greatest living authorities. Tyrone would have read the Sluman biography, but would also have heard the story again and again – in Cree – directly from the elders of his home reserve. These versions of the story would certainly have shaped the words he spoke in Cree while portraying Poundmaker in the 1998 television mini-series Big Bear – and perhaps this is the real purpose for which he prepared this audio/video presentation.

From Norma Sluman (1967) Poundmaker. Toronto: Ryerson Press, pages 295-296 (emphasis added to show words attributed to Poundmaker):

“I have been called many bad things since that day with General Middleton, but it was the white men who said such things, not my own people and that is all that has mattered to me. They put chains on me and shut me away, but they did not cut my hair or keep me very long because I think they know in their hearts that I had done nothing wrong. I was sick at heart when I came home for I could see that it all must begin again. The long, long fight for a better life for us in this land that once was ours.”

No one moved or made a sound. Poundmaker was quiet for a while. The people were in the shade and he was standing in the hot sunlight. For a moment he had a strange feeling that he was all alone, then Crowfoot moved a little so he could see them all again. It must be the heat making him so tired. “It would be so much easier just to fold our hands and not make this fight, to say, ‘I, one man, can do nothing.’ I grow afraid only when I see people acting and thinking like this. We all know the old story about the man who sat beside the trail too long, and then it grew over and he could never find his way again. We can never forget what has happened but we cannot go back. Nor can we just sit beside the trail.” 

He stopped speaking again. Sweat was beading his face and body. He looked again at the place where Crowfood sat but once again the sun was dazzling his eyes. He willed himself to go on. “Before the trouble came to our country I worked very hard to unite the Crees, but I know now that what I did was not enough. I know now that Blackfoot, Cree, Sarcee or Sioux – this does not matter any more. We must all become one people. Until we do that, putting aside old animosities, old jealousies, old rivalries, we will only help to subjugate ourselves. We will –”

He paused, trying to draw a deep breath and found that he could not. He could not go on, it was no use. He had to rest, to try to ease a hard pain that suddenly seemed to be exploding in his chest. Again he struggled for a breath but the pain was choking him and then somehow the earth moved and lurched hard against him and he struggled fiercely against it. the grass had closed over him and he felt it in his hands, that grass, so strong and green and good for the horses and buffalo to graze upon.

Update: CBC news report from Tyrone’s funeral, 16 February 2017.

*With thanks to Arok Wolvengrey for helping me put this beautiful thought from Candyce Paul into the Cree words he and his ancestors deserve. Thanks also to Arok Wolvengrey, Jean Okimâsis, Solomon Ratt, Ben Godden and Dorothy Thunder for persisting through the sadness of this loss to assist with transcription and translation.

5 Responses

  1. This saddens my heart to read the trauma our Chiefs like Poundmaker endured as the world changed against us. In their hearts they must have known so many of us would loose the way as the new comers sought to subjugate us into the very dirt that blessed us. Thanks to Tyrone for these images of those who tried and fought they only way they could but it was all too much. Hiy hiy

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