Exonerating Poundmaker: The role of late Tyrone Tootoosis, Sr (y-dialect, audio)

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Photo thanks: Dave Yanko, Virtual Saskatchewan.

The late Tyrone Tootoosis was the great-great-grandson of Yellow Mudblanket (osâwasiskîwakohp), who was a brother of Poundmaker (pîhtokahânapiwiyin). The exoneration of Poundmaker (scheduled for 23 May 2019) was a goal that Tyrone would have loved to see.

Tyrone’s legacy is enormous, but his performances as Poundmaker in two television miniseries (Big Bear (1998), and Chiefs (2002)), form a significant part. I recently stumbled on an article that describes how he came to be cast in that role – and why his performance was so significant. (Read Dave Yanko’s undated Virtual Saskatchewan article here: http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/playing_pound.html.)

We’re all lucky that Tyrone left us this small audio sample recreating the words of his own most famous ancestor. We don’t know the precise details that surrounded its creation. The voice is Tyrone’s, the photographs are from his personal collection. The text in Cree is also most likely Tyrone’s own. They are most likely translated back into Cree from the only words recorded at the time: the English words of the court translator. We’ve transcribed the Cree text (in SRO and syllabics, below the video) so you can listen and read along. 

[Thanks to Elder Barry Ahenakew for correcting the Cree for Yellow Mudblanket to  osâwasiskîwakohp,  which refers to a buffalo covered with yellow-coloured mud after rolling around in it. (The form I initially used, osâwakohp ‘Yellow Blanket’ is the SRO version of “O‑sa‑wa‑coup” used in Norma Sluman’s fictional biography). Barry’s own family tree crosses that of Poundmaker and Yellow Mudblanket through one of their sisters.]

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.
 

 (Visit the original Cree Literacy Network post to find the text in syllabics, and also,  the way they were presented in Norma Sluman’s 1967 [historical fiction] Poundmaker.) 

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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