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 were only to be told when the ground was covered with snow.
The story of the Dancing Ducks is a great favourite. It is also known as the Shuteye Dance, and even as Wisahkecahk’s Song Bag. Depending on the teller and the occasion, the story may morph into the Wisahkecahk’s being trapped by the birch trees (while he waits for his ducks to cook), and eventually whipping the birches in anger, giving them their marks.
In this post, keep scrolling down to find:
- Video recorded in February 2016.
- A text transcription and translation prepared by Solomon Ratt in 2019.
- Audio from a Zoom recording session for Winter Solstice, 2020.
|Dancing Ducks||First published in The Saskatchewan Indian 1998 Powwow Issue.|
|piyakwâw îsa wîsahkîcâhk kî-papimohtîw wâsakâm sâkahikanihk. kîtahtawîw îsa kâ-wâpamât sîsîpa ikwa niska î-akwamothit nâtakâm. hay, kîsiskaw kâsôpathihow.||Once Wisahkecahk was walking along the shore of a lake. All of a sudden he sees ducks and geese sticking close to shore. Hey, he quickly hides.|
|“tânisi ôma ta-kî-isi-nipahakwâw ôko sîsîpak,” îsa itîthihtam. mâka-mîna îsa î-nohtî-mîcisot! hay, ati-kîmôci-pasikôw, î-ati-sipwihtît. kitahtawîw îsa wâpahtam maskîkwa! ati-mâmôsahkinam î-asowatât omaskimotihk. sâkaskinahtâw omaskimot. ati-wâsakâmîw kisik î-nanikamot. “hay ya hay ya hay, nipasakwâpisimona nipimowatân,” kâ-isi-nikamot îsa awa nâpîw. kinwîsîs wâh-wâsakâmîw athisk ôko sîsîpak î-otami-mîcisocik. pîthisk piyak sîsîpa wâpamikow.||“How am I to kill these ducks?” he thinks. As usual he is hungry. Hey, he quietly gets up, leaving from there. All of a sudden he sees moss! He begins to gather the moss and puts it in his bag. He fills his bag. He begins to walk along the shore of the lake singing; “Hey ya, Hey ya, Hey I am carrying my Shut Eye Dance songs,” is how this man sings. He walks along the shore for a bit because the ducks were busy eating. Eventually one of the ducks sees him.|
|“hay! cîst! kîkwâthiw awa kistîsinaw kâ-pimowatît!” isi-kakwîcimitowak îsa ôko sîsîpak. piyak îsa awa sihkihp kaskimâw ta-nitawi-kakwîcimât wîsahkîcâhkwa kîkwâthiw î-pimowatîthit.||“Hey, Look! What is our Older Brother carrying?” these ducks asked each other. One Water Hen was convinced to go ask Wîsahkîcâhk what he was carrying.|
|“hay, nistîsî,” itîw îsa ôho nâpîwa (wîtha îsa kahkithaw awiya awa wîsahkîcâhk î-kî-osîmisit). ahcipoko papimohtîw awa nâpîw ahkîtâp îkâ î-pihtawât ôho osîmisa. nawac kâ-kisîwî-tîpwâtikot.||“Hey, Older Brother,” says he to the man (because all beings were younger siblings to Wîsahkîcâhk). He continues to walk, pretending not to hear his younger sibling. So (his sibling) called out louder.|
|“hay! nistîsî!” kâ-isi-tîpwît îsa awa sihkihp. kipihcîw îsa awa wîsahkîcâhk tapiskôc î-sascihtawât ôho sihkihpa!||“Hey! Older Brother!” yells the Water Hen. Wîsahkîcâhk stops, as if he was surprised by the Water Hen.|
|“hay! kikoskomin nisîmî,” itîw îsa ôho sihkihpa î-kisowâsihkâsot.||“Hey, you surprised me with your call, Younger sibling,” he says to the Water Hen, pretending to be angry.|
|“kîkwây ôma kâ-pimowatîyan, nistîsî,” isi-kakwîcimîw îsa ostîsa awa sihkihp.||“What are you carrying Older Brother?” asks the Water Hen to his Older Brother.|
|“ninikamowina ôho,” itîw îsa awa anihi sihkihpa.||“These are my songs,” he says to the Water Hen.|
|“mahti mâka nikamo!” itik îsa osîmisa awa wîsahkîcâhk.||“Then please sing!” says the Younger Sibling Water Hen to Wîsahkîcâhk.|
|“nama! oski-nikamowina ôho î-kî-mithikawiyân. namôtha pakwanita pokîtî nika-kî-nikamon”||“No! These are new songs given to me. I cannot sing them just anywhere.”|
|“tânisi mâka?” kakwîcihkîmow ôhi sihkihpa. ikwâni ikota ohci ati-wihtamawîw kahkithaw sîsîpa tânisi ôma ta-itôtamithit kîspin nohtî-pihtahkwâwi anîhi oski-nikamowina. ati-sihkimâwasow wîsahkîcâhk.||“How then?” the Water Hen asks him. From there he tells the ducks what it is they must do if they want to hear the new songs. Wîsahkîcâhk begins to give a lecture.|
|“haw! otahk askiy ôma nikî-asotamâkân ta-nîmihkîyân anohc kâ-askîwik. ikwâni anohcihkî nikî-sihkimikawin tânisi ta-isi-nîmihkîyân ispî nikamoyâni. ohcitaw poko ta-osihtâniwik mîkiwahp nahîthikohk î-ispihcâk ikwa piyak poko ta-iskwahtîmowik. ikwa ispî sipwîsimowinânowiki ohcitaw poko ta-pasakwâpisimocik tahto aniki kâ-wî-nîmîhitocik. kîspin namôtha awiyak nohtî-pasakwâpisimow sîmâk ôta ôhci ta-sipwîhtîw!” ikosi isi-kakwî-pahkacimîw ôho sîsîpa.||“Okay! Last year I promised to put on a dance this year. Just a little while ago I was guided (lectured) on how to put on a dance when I am singing. There has to be someone to build a lodge of the right size with only one door. And when the dancing starts all those who are wanting to dance must dance with eyes shut. If there is anyone who does not want to dance the Shut-eye dance then leave right away!” In this way he tries to convince (suck them in) these ducks.|
|hay kahkithaw ôko sîsîpak nohtî-pasakwâpisimowak. kahkithaw ikota kisâcîwak î-ati-môsahkinahkwâw mistikwa ta-osihtâcik animîthow mîkiwahp ikwa mîna akwanahamwak iyakwîthow asosiya î-âpacihtâcik. ikwâni ispi kâ-kîsihtâcik mîkiwahp ati-mamanîhîw osîmisa wîsahkîcahk, î-wawîsîhât, î-pâpîtosi-sisopîkahwât. hâ! kwayask cihkîthihtamwak ôko sîsîpak î-mâmithonâsocik!||Hey, all these ducks want to dance the Shut-eye Dance. They all stayed there, gathering wood to make that lodge and also to cover the lodge and they covered it using water weeds. Then when they had finished the lodge Wîsahkîcâhk prepared his younger siblings, decorating them, painting each of them in different colours. Hey! These ducks were greatly pleased because they looked so beautiful!|
|ikwa! ati-sipwîham wîsahkîcâhk!||Then! Wîsahkîcâhk starts singing.|
|“hay ya, hay ya, hay ya, paskawâpisimowin ninikamohtân.” isi-nikamow awa nâpîw pihtokamihk ohci mîkowahpihk, cîki iskwatîmihk pâskac î-apit ta-nahi-wâpamât anihi sîsîpa. ikwa aniki sîsîpak ati-pihtokî-pasakwâpisimowak. hay mithonawîw sîsîpa wîsahkîcâhk … ati-nânawasônîw tahto anihi nawac kâ-tâhcipothit, î-ati-kâkîskikwînât ikwa î-ati-pôsowîpinât omaskimotihk.||“Hey-ya, Hey-ya, Hey-ya, the Shut-Eye dance I sing,” this man sings from inside the lodge, sitting near the door so that he may see the dogs clearly. And those ducks enter dancing with their eyes closed. Hey, Wîsahkîcâhk likes the looks of the ducks…he begins to choose those who are the fattest, wrings their necks and throws them into his bag.|
|kîtahtawîw îsa awa sihkihp kâ-ati-kîmôtâpamât ostîsa. wahwâ! koskwâpisin ôho kâ-itâspinatikocik! sîmâk tîpwîw.||Suddently this Water Hen peeks at his Older Brother. He is surprised at how he (Older Brother) is treating them so badly. He yells right away.|
|“tapasîk! tapasîk! kimîscihikonaw awa kistîsinaw!” î-isi-tîpwît.||“Flee! Flee! Our Older Brother is killing us all!” he shourts thus.|
|wahwâ! kwayask papâsi-tapasîwak ôko sîsîpak! mitoni ana sihkihp î-nakacipahiht, wîtha îsa iskwîyânihk wathawîtimiskwaht î-ispahtât. mâka mwihci kîkâc î-paspît kâ-tahkiskâtikot wîshkîcâhkwa omitokwanithihk … mitoni î-wathawî-tahkiskâtikot wîsahkîcâhkwa. ikwâna kiyâpic mâskipathow sihkihp ispî kâ-kakwî-pimohtît askîhk.||Whoa! These ducks very quickly flee! So fast were they that the Water Hen was left behind, he was the last to run outside. But just as he was to escape harm he was kicked in the mid-section (hips) by Wîsahkîcâhk. Still today the Water Hen limps when he tries to walk on land.|
|ikwâni pitamâ î-iskwâcimikosit wîsahkîcâhk.||That’s it for now for this story of Wisahkecahk.|
Dancing Ducks, 2020 (Winter Solstice Storytelling, audio only)