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 accounts for the rabbit’s narrow shoulders 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 the book, the story is titled “Why the Rabbit has Narrow Shoulders,” and it appears on pages 55-61.
Although it’s not part of the repertoire that Solomon Ratt grew up with, he chose – as part of February 2021 Storytelling – to reclaim and re-animate the story.
In this post, keep scrolling down to find:
- Video recorded on 15 February 2021 via Zoom. Darian Âcikahtê reads the story as published in English, and Solomon Ratt provides spontaneous translation 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 Rabbit has Narrow Shoulders||êwak-ohci ôma kâ-sâkâwâyiki otihtimana wâpos|
|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 Wisahkecahk was walking along in the woods; he passed a rabbit. Suddenly Wisahkecahk stopped. “What is wrong with that Rabbit?”||pêyakwâw wîsahkêcâhk kî-papimohtêw sakâhk kâ-kî-atimiskawât wâposwa. kêtahtawê nakêw wîsahkêcâhk. “tânisi awa ê-isi-ayât ana wâpos?”|
|He went back to the rabbit. And he started to laugh and laugh. “What’s this that makes him laugh?” thought the startled rabbit. “Perhaps he is planning to trick me!”||kâwi nâtêw wâposwa. êkwa ati-pâh-pâhpiw! “kîkway ôma kâ-pâhpiskâkot?” itêyihtam ana kâ-koskowihiht wâpos. “ahpô êtikwê ê-wî-wawiyasihit!”|
|“Rabbit,” said Wisahkecahk. “Why are your shoulders so narrow? It makes you look funny.”||“wâpos,” itwêw wîsahkêcâhk. “tânêhki ôma kâ-sâkâwâki kitihtimana? kiwawiyasinâkohikon.”|
|The Rabbit looking up said, “When I was young and foolish I had two sweethearts. They used to sit on each side of me. Each one tried to get my attention. I thought I was very attractive. I was flattered by their interest. was so charmed by their warmth. I did not realize that they were squeezing me tighter and tighter. Soon they grew tired of me; they left me. Now I have only narrow shoulders to remind me of my lovers.”||wâpos ispimihk itâpiw. “ispîhk kâ-kî-oskâyawiyân nikî-mohcowin, nîso ê-kî-wîcimosiyân. âyêtaw mâna nikî-wîtapimikwak. pâh-pêyak mâna nikî-nitawêyimik ta-pisiskêyimak. nikî-itêyimison ê-takahkinâpêwiyân. nikî-mamihcihikwak, nikî-wîsâhkahikwak okîsowiniwâw. namôya nikî-ohci-nisitawêyihtên ê-kî-mâkoniskawicik,, nawac ê-sâh-sîhtiskawicik. piyisk nikî-ati-mwêstâtêyimikwak; kâ-nakasicik. anohc piko nitayân sâkâwâ-mitihtimana ta-kiskisohicik nîcimosak.”|
|Wisahkecahk looked with pity at the rabbit.||kitimâkinawêw wâposwa wîsahkêcâhk.|
|“Rabbit,” he said, “you were foolish, for that, you will remain narrow shouldered.”||“wâpos,” itwêw, “kikî-mohcowin, êwak-ohci kapê kika-sâkâwâ-mitihtimanin.”|
|So he left the poor rabbit with his sorrow! From that time on all rabbits have narrow shoulders.||êkosi nakatêw wâposwa opîkiskwâtisiwin! êkospîhk ohci kahkiyaw wâposwak sâkâwâ-mitihtimaniwak.|