The Cree word for “sacred story” or “myth” is âtayôhkêwin (in y-dialect), âcathôhkîwin (in th-dialect). Wisahkecahk is the protagonist in many of these stories, which often serve to explain some curious aspect of the natural world, or teach some important cultural lesson. Traditionally, stories of Wîsahkêcâhk could only be told when the ground was covered with snow.
This post includes two of Solomon Ratt’s video tellings (from February 2016, and from Winter Solstice 2020), along with transcribed text and translation from 2019.
The story of the “Little Startlers” also forms the introduction of Sol’s “Woods Cree Stories.”
Recorded in honour of Aboriginal Story Telling Month, February 2016.
The following table presents the story in written form, side by side with English translation. Read along, and watch for the ways the oral telling(s) follow (and depart from) the written version. (Scroll past the table to find 2020 video):
|pêyakwâw êsa Wîsahkêcâhk kî-papimohtêw...||Once, Wisahkecahk was walking about (when)|
|kêtahtawê êsa wâpamêw pihêsisa.||all of a sudden, he saw some baby grouse.|
|"ho! nisîmitik!" itêw êsa.||"Ho! Honorable younger siblings!" says he to them.|
|kanawâpamikow ôhi pihêsisa.||The baby grouse looked at him.|
|"nisîmitik, pihêsisak, tânisi kâ-itikawîyêk."||"Honorable younger siblings, Baby Grouse, how are you called?"|
|"âsay kiwihyinân, 'pihêsisak,' kâ-itwêyan êkosi kâ-itikawîyâhk."||"You already named us (when) you said 'Baby Grouse.' That's how we are called."|
|"nama! kahkiyaw awiyak awasimês wihyâw. tâpiskôc niya: 'Wîsahkêcahk' nitisiyihkâson mâka 'ostêsimâw' mîna nititikawin. haw, tânisi kiyawâw kâ-itikawîyêk."||"No, everyone has more than one name. Like me: 'Wîsahkêcâhk' is my name but I am also called 'Oldest Brother.' Now, how are you called?"|
|"namôya nikakî-wihtînân. ninîkihikonânak ôki nîkî-wihtamâkonânak êkâ ta-wihtamâhk kotak niwihyowininân 'okoskohowîsak' ê-itikawiyâhk."||"We can't tell. Our parents told us not to tell our other name 'Startlers,' as we are called."|
|"okoskohowîsak! ha!" kâ-isi-pâhpihât êsa!||"Startlers! Ha!" He laughed at them.|
|"îsay, okoskohowîsak!"||"Bosh, Startlers!"|
|"nitakisiy, okoskohowîsak," itwêw êsa ê-ati-mîsâtât, êkwa anihi kâ-patahwât, otinêw ê-ati-kimisahwâkît!"||"My prick, Startlers," he said as he began to shit on them, and those he missed, he picked up and used them to wipe himself!|
|"okoskohowîsak! osâm kitapisîsisinâwâw ta-koskohowîyêk," itwêw ê-ati-sipwêhtêt.||"Startlers! You are too small to scare someone," he said beginning to leave.|
|onîkihikowak koskwâpisinwak ispîhk kâ-pê-kîwêcik.||The parents were so surprised when they got home.|
|"awîna awa kâ-itôtahk! wahwâ! kwayask kiwihcîkisinâwâw! îsay!" itwêwak êsa.||"Who did this? Holy! You sure stink! Phew!" they said.|
|"Wîsahkêcâhk ana," kâ-isi-mâtot êsa pêyak pihêsis. "ê-pahkacimikoyâhk ta-wîhtamâhk kotak kiwihyowininaw. mayaw 'okoskohowîsak' ê-itâyâhk kâ-mîsâtikoyâhk!||"It was Wîsahkêcâhk!" cried one baby grouse. "He tricked us to tell him our other name. As soon as we said "Startlers" he shit on us!"|
|"hâw cêskwa Wîsahkêcâhk!" itwêw awa nôsî-pihêw. nitomêw êsa kahkiyaw otôtêma ta-mâmawapicik."||"Just you wait Wîsahkêcâhk!" said the female grouse. She called all her tribesmen to have a meeting.|
|kî-nitawi-pêhowak pihêwak sisonê sîpîhk ita mâna Wîsahkêcâhk kâ-âsowakâmîkwâskohtit.||They went to wait along the river where Wîsahkêcâhk usually jumped across.|
|kêtahtawê takohtêw awa nâpêw, kêyâpic ê-pâhpihât pihêsisa. "okoskohowîsak! ha! îsay!"||Eventually this man arrived still laughing at the startlers. "Startlers! Ha! Bosh"|
|sîsonê sîpîhk takohtêw.||He arrives along the river.|
|"ha! mahti nika-âsowakâmîkwâskohtin!"||"Ha! Let's see, I'll jump across!"|
|nîkân êsa asihtêw êkwa êkotê ohci pêcipahtâw. mwêhci sîpîhk ê-takopahtât kâ-nakît. "kêkâc," itwêw êsa; kâ-wâpamât pêyak pihêsisa ê-ohpahoyit sakâhk ohci.||First he backed up, then from there he ran and, just as he reached the river, he stopped. "Almost!" he says; he saw a baby grouse fly up from the bushes.|
|kihtwâm asihtêw êkwa mîna ati-sipwêpahtâw. "kêkâc!" itwêw, êkwa-mîna ê-nakît. wâpamêw nîso pihêsisa ê-ohpahoyit sakâhk ohci.||He backs up again, and again he begins to run. "Almost!" he says, and once again he stops. He sees two baby grouse flying from the bush.|
|kihtwâm asihtêw, nawac êkwa wahyawês ohci ati-sipwêpahtâw. "kêkâc!" itwêw, ê-nakît êkwa mîna. nisto pihêsisa wâpamêw ê-ohpahoyit sakâhk ohci.||He backs up again, and again he begins to run, this time from a little ways further. "Almost!" he says, and once again, he stops. He sees three baby grouse flying from the bush.|
|kihtwâm asihtêw, nawac wahyawês ohci ati-sipwêpahtâw. mwêhci ê-ati-kwâskohtit kâ-sasci-ohpahocik mihcêt pihêwak! wahwâ! kwayask, koskowiyik! mêtoni ê-pakastawêsihk sîpîhk. "okoskohowîsak, okoskohowîsik," kâ-isi-pâhpihikot êsa anihi okoskohowîsa! êkwâni ê-iskwâcimihcik okoskohowîsak.||He backs up again, this time he runs from further away. Just as he begins his jump lots of grouse flew out from the bushes. Wow! He was so startled he landed in the water. The grouse laughed at him saying their name as they went away: "okoskohowîsak! okoskohowîsak!" That's the length of that story about the Startlers.|
Solomon Ratt recorded the following telling of the Little Startlers on Winter Solstice 2020, in an online storytelling performance via Zoom.
Love the stories, I am an Indigenous Education Coach in 2 schools and the students, teachers and I love your work.