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 about the Origin of the Moon 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, it appears as “Origin of the Moon” on pages 42-45.
Although it’s not part of the repertoire that Solomon Ratt grew up with, we decided – as part of February 2021 Storytelling – to re-animate the story, by reading it aloud in English, then having it translated back in Cree.
In this post, scroll down to find:
- Video recorded on 22 February 2021 via Zoom. Arden Ogg reads the story in its published English version, with Solomon Ratt providing 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.
|Origin of the Moon||Stan Cuthand, Ed., nêhiyâw atayohkêwina (Cree Legends): Stories of Wîsahkêcâhk. Regina: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (1973, rev. 1977, 1988).|
|kayâs, mêtoni kayâs, namôya kî-ihtakow tipiskâwi-pîsim. kîsikâwi-pîsim piko kâ-kî-ihtakot. kisê-manitow kî-ayâwêw itisahwâkana ta-wîcihikot otatoskêwinihk. pêyak awa itisahwâkan kî-itâw kâ-nâkatawêyimât kîsikâwi-pîsimwa.||A long time ago, there was no moon. There was only the sun. The Creator had messengers who helped him in his work. One of these was the Caretaker of the Sun.|
|nîso kî-otawâsimisiw, nâpêsisa êkwa iskwêsisa. kî-nistowak kîsikohk. kî-cîhkêyihtamwak.||He had two children, a boy and a girl. All three lived in the Sky World. They were very happy.|
|otânisimâw kî-kanwêyihtam kapêsiwin. kapê kî-kanâcihtâw. ispîhk kâ-kî-pahpawahahk opîwayakohpiwâwa, pîwayak kî-nîhci-pahkisinwak, ê-kî-kôniwicik. okosisimâw kî-nôcihcikêw êkwa kî-nôci-kinosêwêw. ita kâ-kî-akotât otayapiya ta-pâsoyit êkota ohci nipiy kî-pahkihtiniyiw, ê-kî-kimiwaniwik.||The daughter looked after the camp. She kept it clean and tidy. When she shook the feather bedding, the feathers would fall to the earth as snow. The son hunted and fished. Where he hung his nets to dry, droplets fell to the earth as rain.|
|ohtâwîmâw ohpimê kî-ay-ayâw. kapê-kîsik pônam okihci-iskotêw kîsikâwi-pîsim.||The father would be away. All day he kept the great fire burning on the Sun.|
|mêtoni kî-kisêyiniwiw, wîpac ta-nakatêw otawâsimisa, nama wîhkâc kîhtwâm ka-takosihk. kî-itêw; “ispîhk nipiyâni kiyawâw piko ta-âhkami-pônamêk iskotêw awêkâ cî ayisiyiniwak êkwa pisiskiwak askîhk ta-nipiwak.||He was very old. Soon he would leave his children, never to return. He said to them; “When I die, you must keep the fire burning, or else the people and animals on earth will die.”|
|pêyakwâw ê-kî-ati-mêstaskitêk iskotêw kîsikâwi-pîsimohk, ohtâwîmâw kî-pê-kîwêw, ê-kî-nêstosit. kî-itwêw, “awâsisak, nitawâsimisak. êkwâni ta-sipwêhtêyân. nama wîhkâc kîhtwâm nika-pê-itohtân.” awâsisak kî-mâtowak, ê-kî-mawîhkâtâcik. kî-kiskêyihtamwak ê-wî-nipiyit.||One day when the fire was low on the sun, the father came home tired. He said, “Children, my children, my children. I have to go. I will never return.” The children cried and mourned. They knew he would die.|
|kâ-kîkisêpâyâk êkwa ta-pônamihk kîsikâwi-pîsim iskotêw. awâsisak kî-ati-kîhkâtowak awîna ta-kî-itôtahk. “kiya pôna, kiya nawac kikisiyayawisin.” “namôya, kiya nîkân.””namôya, namôya niya, kiya nawac kikisiyayawisin, kiya kotawêw.” êkosi ê-kî-isi-têpwâtitocik.||In the morning it was time to start the sun's fire. The children began to quarrel over who would do the task. “You start the fire, you are older.” “No, you start first.” “No, I will not, you are older, you start the fire.” They yelled thus to each other.|
|ayisîniwak askîhk kî-ati-mikoskâtêyihtamwak, ê-kî-itwêcik, “tânêhki awa kîsikâwi-pîsim kâ-mwêstasisihk?” “âsay awa ta-kî-sâkâsot!”||The Earthlings began to worry, saying, “Why is the sun so late?” “It should be up by now!”|
|wîshakêcâhk kî-itohtêw kîsikâwi-pîsimohk ê-kî-nitawâpênawât tânisi ê-kî-ispayiyik. ispîhk kâ-kî-takosihk kêyâpic ôki wîtisânimâwak kî-kîhkâtowak. wîsahkêcâhk kî-kisiwâsow. “ayisiniwak êkwa pisiskiwak ka-nisiwanâtisiwak,” kî-itêw.||Wisahkecahk went to the Sun to see what was the matter. When he arrived, the brother and sister were still quarrelling. Wisahkecahk was angry. “The People and animals will perish,” he said to them.|
|kiya ôma piko! kiya ôma kapê ka-pônaman ôma iskotêw!” kî-itêw nâpêsisa. “kiwîhowin ôta ohci kika-itikawin ‘pîsim.’ êkwa iskwêsisa kî-itêw, “kîsta mîna kika-sôhki-atoskân pêyakwan kistês. kika-kanawêskotêwân pêtos ita. tipiskâki kika-atoskân. kika-itikawin ôta ohci ‘tipiskâwi-pîsim.’||“It is up to you! You keep the fire burning,” he told the boy. “Your name from now on will be pîsim.” To the sister, he said, “You too will work as hard as your brother. You will keep the fire in another place. You will work at night. You will be tipiskawipîsim, the Moon.”|
|“namôya kikî-ohci-miyo-wîcêwititonâwâw. êwako ohci pêyakwâw piko pêyak askîwin kika-wâpamititonâwâw. kâkikê ôta ohci kika-wâpamititonâwâw akami-kîsikohk ohci.||“You did not get along. As a punishment, you will see each other once a year. For all time, you will see each other from across the sky.”|
|êkosi kî-ispayin. ahpô mîna anohc êkosi isi-ayâw.||And so it happened. Even now it is so.|