In honour of Indigenous Veterans Day, and of Remembrance Day coming up, I am proud to share this photo of Edward Ahenakew, given to me by his granddaughter Elaine Greyeyes. Edward was born at Atahkahkoop, SK, and named for his uncle (or great uncle) Rev. Canon Edward Ahenakew, another important pioneering figure in Cree literacy.
I’ve posted before about Checkers Tomkins, a Cree Code-talker during WWII, but this fall I finally stumbled on the beautiful Alex Lazarowich Documentary completed a couple of years ago, with contributions from Checkers’ brothers.
It’s such a gift to remember these veterans, and honour their own words as they spoke them in Cree, and for this, we’re especially grateful to Solomon Ratt for providing transcription of those Cree passages from the video that are subtitled in English. Sol’s transcript follows:
(1:29) tânihk- ôtî kâ-pîs~kâ-pîsiyân?
(1:33 ) ikwa sôskwâc ninohtî-mâton êyikohk ê-kaskêyihtamân
(1:41) môya kihtwâm ôtî nika-pê-(i)tohtân
(1:46) osâm mistahi nimâmitonêyihcikan nitayân ôtê kâ-pê-itohtêyân
(1:53) kâ-pê-awâsisiwiyâhk kayâs
(1:57) osâm mistahi mâmitonêyihcikan
(2:00) sôskwâc ninohtî-mâton iyikohk kayâs….tânisi ê-isi-nâkwahk ôta (2:10)….ikosâni, nîtisânak êkwa kahkiyaw ~ kîsta mîna
(2:14) kahkiyaw namakîkway ~ niwîcîwâkanak, kahkiyaw nama-awiyak êkwa ninisitawêyimâw
(2:40) Charles mâna kî-isiyihkâsow nistês
(2:45) mâk-aya <nick name> mâna nikî-miyânân ~ Chicksees mâna kî-isiyihkâsow. Kahkiyaw awuyakôta – kahkiyaw awiyak ôta êkosi mâna kê-isiyihkâtât Chicksees
(2:54) Check-owi-ore ê-wî-itwêt (?) Checker Tompkins ~ Cicksees~
(5:21) sakimês kâ-pahkisikît
(5:24) ~mosquito bomber~sakimîs ….. kâ-pahkisikît
(6:20) nâpê cô, mâka mîna ka-wîhtamwak ka-nitawi-pahkisikêyêk (6:25) ikwa nîsitanaw niyânanosâp sakimîsak
(6:29) ikwa nikawî-masinahîn ôta, mâka mîna sâsay mîna ta-wîhtamwak ta-nitawi-pahkisikêyêk
(An important cultural footnote from Sol: Where Frank chuckles in the video, he’s most likely reflecting on the nickname Chick-sees, a play on caksîs “Little Penis.” That would have been a constant in-joke amongst Cree-speaking friends, and maybe a select few môniyawak.)
For additional Remembrance Day materials and posts, look for “Remembrance Day” under categories on the right, or follow this link: https://creeliteracy.org/category/lesson-2/seasonal/remembrance-day/
Yet another version of the Checkers Tomkins story via Readers Digest: https://www.readersdigest.ca/travel/canada/cree-code-talkers/
This one includes additional Cree vocabulary (edited here for SRO):
“So, for example, when they talked about the B17 bomber, they said, “âmow têpakohposâp” (“bee” and “17” in Cree). A Spitfire aircraft became “iskotêw” (“fire” in Cree) and the Mustang translated into “pakwâtastim” (“wild horse” in Cree). To indicate how many aircraft were seen, they would include the appropriate number in Cree: “nîstanaw âmow têpakohposâp pâskisikânân” (20 B17 bombers [we shot]).