Sharing the thoughts of Elders in their own words is always an honour, particularly when they speak about our collective relationship with nêhiyawêwin. Thanks to Darryl Chamakese for permission to share his video interview with his mentor Elder A.J. Felix of Sturgeon Lake, Saskatchewan, and for letting us share his thoughtful interpretation into English. Thanks also to Neil Redcrow who took on the task of transcribing the Cree in SRO and letting us share his work as well. I suspect our Elder would be proud of their collaboration.
|êkwa ayahka anohc kâ-kîsikâk êkwa||and nowadays|
|mêtoni ê-kitimâkisiyahk ayîhk ochi kipîkiskwêwininaw||we’re in a very sad state of affairs with our language|
|mâka, namôya nitatamêyimâw oskâya ê-kâya-pîkiskwêt opîkiskwêwin||but, i don’t blame a young person for not speaking their language|
|ayisk ê-kî-isîhcikêt ta-wanîhtâyahk kipîkiskwêwininaw, kinêhiyawiwininaw ahpo kimâwimosicikêwininaw||because it was deliberately made so we would forget our language, culture and ceremonies|
|êkosi ôma pîkiskwêwin ôma ê-kî-nîhtâw-acîtâhk ta-wanîhtâhk||it was specifically designed in that way for it to be forgotten|
|nêtê môy kayâs itêyihtâkwan ahpo kinîkihkonawak ê-kî-itisahocik kiskinwahamâtokamikohk||not too long ago it was thought up that our parents would be sent off to residential school|
|êkotê ê-môy-pakitinêcik ta-nêhiyawêcik, êkotê ê-wanihkêcik ahpo ê-kî-kakwe-kwayask-âyamihâcik||over there they weren’t allowed to speak cree, they had to forget it and replace it with religion|
|êkosi kiyânaw êwakôma kâ-isi-kitimâkisiyahk anohc, oskâya môy nêhiyawêw, môy opîkiskwêwin kiskêyihtam||that’s the reason why we are in a sad state today, a young person doesn’t speak or know their language|
|êkwa kêhtê-âya pêci naway ê-kî-pê-âcimot||and in the past the elder(s) have said|
|ôma kipîkiskwêwininaw ôma êwako an-anima ê-kî-miyikowisiyahk, kiyânaw ê-miyikowisiyahk||this language here was given to us by creator it was specifically given to us|
|ta-aspêyimwâkêyahk, ta-ispi-opikinâwaswâkêyahk, ta-ispi-miyo-wîcêhtoyahk mîna ta-ispi-kâkîsimoyahk||for us to rely on to use to raise our children to use to get along with one another and to use to pray with|
|êwako an-anima kiyânaw ê-miyikowisiyahk, êwako an-anima ê-kî-kakwê-maskamikawiyahk, ê-kî-kakwê-sôskwâc-ta-wanîhtâyahk ê-kî-itahkimikawiyahk||that’s why it was given to us by creator, and that’s that why they tried to take it away from us to try make us forget, it was already predecided for us to be that way|
|êkosi êkwa anohc kâ-kîsikâk kimâwimonânaw âya kitopikinâwasowininaw, kikâkêskimâwasowininaw mîna kîkâkîsimowininaw môy ê-âsônamawayahk kitoskâyiminaw||therefore nowadays we are we are pleading, because our way of raising our children, counseling our children and ways of prayer aren’t being passed on to the youth|
|mâka ta-âhkamêyimoyahk ê-kâya-ta-poyoyahk sôskwâc ta-âhkam-sa-sîhkimâyahk oskâya||but still we must persevere and not quit and we must continue to urge the young people to carry it on|
|nimîtâtên mâna ahpo mâwimosicikêwinihk ê-pîtihkwêyân oskâyak êkotê ê-apicik môy ê-nisitohtakik tânsi anima kêhcinâc ê-kakwê-isîhcikêyahk mîna ê-kakwê-itwêyahk||i feel bad when i go to ceremony and young people there don’t understand how we’re doing things and what we’re trying to say|
|mâka ta-âhkamêyimototawâyahk oskâyak ta-âhkam-pîtihkwêcik, ta-âhkam-wîtapimikoyahkok, ta-âhkam-kiskêyihtakik oskâpêwisiwin||but we must continue to get the youth to keep coming in (to ceremonies), to keep coming to sit with us, to keep trying to learn how to be a helper (in ceremony)|
|nânitaw ita kâwi-anima opîkiskwêwinâwâw ta-pê-kîwêmakanêw ayisk mâwimostawâkanak ka-wîcihkonawak kâwi-oskâyak ta-ayâcik anima kîkway kâ-pakosêyistamawâyahkok||wherever it may be their language to be brought back home to them because the spiritual helpers will help us in giving back our youth the things that we want and hope for them (the language/culture)|
Darryl Chamakese made a few comments about how he shaped the free translation into English that he initially posted it in September 2018:
My friend and one of many mentors, A.J. Felix Sturgeon Lake, Sk. nēhiyaw Plains Cree. An incredible message to all. I have attempted to the best of my ability to bring out in English the powerful nēhiyaw words that he speaks with power and truth. I will never capture the true essence. I avoid using words like prayer, worship, and even ceremony because these words formulate in minds a foreign meaning and thought. I try to keep it in its nēhiyaw (Plains Cree) form. Because, if I write in proper English grammar that too will steal from its meaning.
“I am called A.J. Felix, this is who I am called. This day we are in a poor state in regards to our language, but I do not blame the New Beings (young) that do not speak their language. For it was purposely acted on that we would lose our languages, our nēhiyaw identity, and even our way of crying out (to the Creator, Spirits, Grandfather Spirits, Grandmother Spirits ) So, our language was acted on to be lost.
It wasn’t that long ago that even our parents were sent to schools, there they were forbidden to speak nēhiyawēwin (Plains Cree). They were purposely made to lose their way and there was even an attempt to change their way of crying out (to the Creator, Spirits, Grandfather Spirits ,Grandmother Spirits).
And today as we are in this poor state, the New Beings (young) do not speak nēhiyawēwin (Plains Cree), they do not know their language.
And our Old beings(Elders) said in the past, “ Our language was given to us by the Creator, the Creator gave it to us for protection and strength, to help us raise our children, to help us have good relations, and to help us cry out (to the Creator, Spirits, Grandfather Spirits Grandmother Spirits).
This is what the Creator gave to us and this is what was attempted to take away from us. With no consideration it was acted on that we should just lose it. This is what was determined upon us. And now this day we cry in spiritual pain. Our ways of raising properly our young, our ways of telling our New Beings (Young) what is right and what is wrong, and our ways of crying out (to the Creator, Spirits, Grandfather Spirits Grandmother Spirits), we cannot pass on to our New Beings (young).
However, we must forge ahead strongly, we cannot give up, we have to keep encouraging our New Beings (young).
I feel empty and I feel a longing, when I go into the lodges where we go to cry out (to the Creator, Spirits, Grandfather Spirits, Grandmother Spirits). There, the New Beings (young) sit and they do not fully comprehend the definite purpose and the truths being told.
But we must keep encouraging strongly and helping our New Beings (young) to keep entering and partaking (lodges) and to sit with us. And to keep learning the ways of the oskāpēwis (Elders Helper and apprentice).
In time again, their language will come home to them because the ones we cry out to will help us. So that again, the New Beings (young) will regain what we hope that they will have.”