The Cree word for “sacred story” or “myth” is âtayôhkêwin (in y-dialect), âcathôhkîwin (in th-dialect). Wisahkecahk is often the protagonist 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 were only to be told when the ground was covered with snow.
This story that explains why the Moose’s coat is baggy is drawn from an English-only collection titled Nêhiyaw Atayohkêwina [Cree Legends]: Stories of Wîsahkecâhk edited by Stan Cuthand, and published by Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nation (1973; revisions 1977, 1988), that is currently out of print. In that book, the story is titled “Why the Moose has a Baggy Coat,” and it appears on pages 62-66.
Although it’s not part of the repertoire that Solomon Ratt grew up with, he chose to reclaim and re-animate the story as part of his 2021 Storytelling sessions.
In this post, keep scrolling down to find:
- Video recorded on 15 February 2021 via Zoom. Ramona MacKenzie reads the story in its published English version, with Solomon Ratt providing spontaneous translation back into Cree (th-dialect).
- Parallel text transcription of English (re-typed from the published SICC book), along with a new, 2021 text translation in th-dialect provided by Solomon Ratt. When you listen and read along, be sure to watch out for the places where the new Cree telling departs from the written translation: an important part of the storyteller’s art.
|Why the Moose has a Baggy Coat|
|Stan Cuthand, Ed., nêhiyâw atayohkêwina (Cree Legends): Stories of Wîsahkêcâhk. Regina: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (1973, rev. 1977, 1988).||Stan Cuthand, Ed., nêhiyâw atayohkêwina (Cree Legends): Stories of Wîsahkêcâhk. Regina: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (1973, rev. 1977, 1988).|
|Once upon a time, the animals did not have fur coats and horns. However, when the world became very cold, the cold winds made the animals suffer. Their thin coats were not warm.||pêyakwâw êsa, kayâs, namôya pisiskiwak kî-ohci-wayâniwak ahpô kî-ohci-mitêskaniwak. êkwa ispîhk kâ-kî-ati-kisinâk mêtoni mâna pisiskiwak kî-kawaciwak, ê-kî-tahkiyowêk. namôya kî-kîsowâyiw opapaki-asâkayâhk.|
|One day the Bear decided to call a meeting. He asked all the animals to come. The otter, the lynx, the rabbit, the deer and the fox and all the others of the forest came.||pêyakwâw, ê-kî-kîsikâk, maskwa kî-nitomêw kotaka pisiskiwa ta-pê-mâmawapiyit. nikik, pisiw, wâpos, apisimôsos, êkwa mahkêsîs mîna kahkiyaw pisiskiwak sakâhk ohci kî-pê-itohtêwak.|
|They decided to tell the Creator of their needs, and ask him for warmer coats. It was decided that the deer, the porcupine and the bear would go out in search of their brother, Wisahkecahk. Wisahkecahk agreed to tell their Creator what their needs were.||kî-wiyasiwêwak ta-wîhtamawâcik kisê-manitowa kîkway kâ-kî-nitawêyihtahkik, ta-nitotamawâcik kîsôwahona. kî-wiyasiwânawan apisimôsos, kâkwa, êkwa maskwa ka-nitonawâcik ostêsiwâwa, wîsahkêcâhkwa. wîsahkêcâhk kaskimâw ta-wîhtamawât kisê-manitowa kîkway kâ-nitawêyihtahkik.|
|Wisahkecahk went on a long journey to the Mountains. After a long time, the Creator came. He spoke a long time. Wisahkecahk listened and did not speak.||wîsahkêcâhk kinwêsk kî-pimâcihow wacîhk isi. mêtoni kinwêsk piyisk kâ-pêtohtêt kisê-manitow. kinwêsk kî-pîkiskwêw. wîsahkêcâhk kî-nâkatohkêw namôya kî-ohci-pîkiskwêw.|
|The Creator left. Wisahkecahk went back to the animals.||kisê-manitow kî-sipwêhtêw. wîsahkêcâhk kâwi kî-nâtêw pisiskiwa.|
|He told them the Creator took pity on them; and that they would have the choice of fur coats they wanted.||kî-wîhtamawêw kisê-manitowa ê-kî-kitimâkêyimikocik; êkwa wiyawâw ka-nâh-nawasônâcik itowahk wayâna kâ-nitawêyimâcik.|
|Everybody talked at once and they ordered what they wanted. Wisahkecahk worked all summer. By fall he had many coats and horns.||kahkiyaw pêyakwan-ispîhk kî-pîkiskwêwak êkwa kî-nâtisahwêwak kîko wayâna kâ-nitawêyimâcik. kapê nîpin kî-atoskêw wîsahkêcâhk. kâ-kî-pê-takwâkiniyik mihcêt wayâna êkwa mitêskana kî-ayâwêw.|
|The Moose was a quiet sleepy creature. He enjoyed eating juicy roots of the water lilies, the sweet leaves of young trees. The others came to the Moose and said, “Say, Moose, you better hurry and order your coat. It may be too late!’’ The Moose continued to eat. “There is time yet,” he thought. “Besides there will be plenty of coats.”||môswa mâna kî-kwayâtisiw êkwa kî-nâh-nohtêhkwasiw, kî-miywêyihtam ta-mowât waskatamôha, ta-mîcit nîpiya. kotakak pisiskiwak pê-nâtikow êkwa itikow “îîî, môswa, ta-kiyipiyan piko ta-nâtisahwat kiwayân. ka-mwêstasisin!” “kêyâpic nika-kêstinên,” kî-itêyihtam. “misawâc kêyâpic mistahi wayânak ihtakowak.”|
|One day, Wisahkecahk called all the animals. “Come for your coats and horns,” he yelled.||pêyakwâw, ê-kî-kîsikâk wîsahkêcâhk kî-nitomêw kahkiyaw pisikiwa. “pê-nâtik kiwayâniwâwa mîna kitêskaniwâwa,” ê-kî-isi-têpwêt.|
|All the animals came and one by one, they put on their new coats. They hurried to the water to look at themselves.||kahkiyaw kî-pê-itohtêwak êkwa pâh-pêyak kî-nawasônêwak otoski-wayâniwâwa. kî-papâsi-ispahtâwak nipîhk ê-kî-nitawi-wâpamisocik.|
|The Moose was on his way and when he met his friends, he did not recognize them at first. Then he remembered to order his winter coat. On the way, he stopped twice to eat sweet leaves of young trees. Finally he arrived.||môswa êkotê kî-ati-itohtêw êkwa kâ-kî-nakiskawât otôtêma namôya nîkân kî-ohci-nisitawinawêw. êkwa kî-kiskisiw ta-nâtihsahwât oponi-wayâna. êkotê kâ-kî-ati-itohtêw mâka nîswâw kî-kipihcîw ta-mîcit nîpiya miscikosihk ohci. piyisk kî-takohtêw.|
|Wisahkecahk said, “All the coats are gone. I only have a few scraps. You are pitiful. Let me fix you with something warm.”||wîsahkêcâhk itwêw, “kahkiyaw wayâwak mêstinâwak. âtiht piko pîwisikana nitayân. kikitimâkisin. mahti kika-osîhtamâtân kîkway ta-kîsôwâk.|
|Wisahkecahk made a large baggy coat, no one wanted. It hung in floppy folds around Moose’s neck. The horns no one wanted, were large and flat. They looked so awkward. But the Moose soon forgot his loose coat and flat horns. He returned to eat lily roots.||wîsahkêcâhk kî-osîhtâw ê-kî-misâyik miskotâkay, namôya awiyak ê-kî-nitawêyihtahk. kî-yîkotêyiw okwayâhk môswa. êskana namôya awiyak kâ-kî-nitawêyimât kî-misikitiwak, ê-kî-napakisicik. kî-mâyinâkosiwak, mâka môswa wîpac kî-wanikiskisiw oyîkotêw-wayâna êkwa onapakitêhkwana. kâwi kî-nitawi-mowêw waskatamôha.|
|The other animals were so proud of their new coats. They grew to be envious and unpleasant to each other. When they saw Moose, they laughed and made fun of his coat.||kotakak aniki pisiskiwak kî-mamihcihikowak otoski-wayâniwâwa. kî-ati-ohtêyihtamitowak êkwa kî-mâh-mâyi-tôtâtowak piko kîkway. ispîhk kâ-kî-wâpamâcik môswa kî-pâhpihêwak ê-nawêyicimâcik owayâniyiwa ohci.|
|The Moose grew sad that his brothers would treat him so cruelly. He began to live by himself and feed in lonely places.||môswa kî-ati-pîkiskâtam kâ-kî-isi-kitimahikot wîtisâna. kî-mâci-pêyakwahkamikisiw êkwa kî-mâh-mîcisow pîkiskâtamâhk.|