Why Ahasiw the Crow is Black (y-dialect)

A second story, published in English by Stan Cuthand in 1973, newly translated back into Cree for storytelling month by Solomon Ratt. This is how cultural reclamation and linguistic revitalization work hand in hand!

Why Ahasiw the Crow is Blackêwako ohci awa âhâsiw kâ-kaskitêsit.
Translated into Cree by Solomon Ratt (2024)<span style="color:#050505;">Stan Cuthand, ed., nêhiyâw atayohkêwina (Cree Legends): Stories of Wîsahkêcâhk. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (1973, rev. 1977, 1988).
pêyak kîsikâw, ê-kî-kisâstêk, ispîhk ê-kî-pôni-nôcihcikêt wîsahkêcâhk, kî-natonam matâwisihk ita ta-kotawêt. pâcimâsês kî-miskam ita ê-tawâyik, ê-wâsakâmi-ayâcik mihcêt mistikwak; kî-kotawêw êkwa kî-akotâw wiyâs sakapwâkanihk ta-sakapwêt. kotawân nahiyikohk kî-kwahkotêw êkâ ta-pihkahtêk wiyâs.One very hot day, after hunting, Wisahkecahk searched for a clearing to build a fire. After some time he found an opening surrounded by plenty of trees; he built his fire and suspended the meat he had caught on a rack to roast. The fire was just right for roasting the meat without burning it.
wîsahkêcâhk kî-nahapiw êkwa kî-mâmitonêyihtam kâ-wî-isi-wîhkasiniyik omîciwin kâ-wî-mîcit.Wisahkecahk sat down and thought about his delicious meal he would eat.
kêtahtawê kî-pê-nîhci-pimihâw âhâsiw, ê-kî-kisîwê-têpwêt. êkospîhk ôma âhâsiw kî-wâpiskisiyiwa omîkwana, mêtoni ê-kî-wâsêsoyit âhkwâstênâhk. wîsahkêcâhk atotêw âhâsiwa kita-kanawêskotêwêyit êkâ kita-âstawêyiki kaskaskisiwa kita-kîsisahk wiyâs, ayisk wîsahkêcâhk ê-wî-âwasêwêt aciyaw. kî-tâpwêyihtam âhâsiw êkwa kî-asotamawêw kita-wawêstahahk kaskaskisiwa otahtahkwana ohci kapê kita-kwahkotêyik iskotêw.Suddenly Ahasiw the crow came flying down, cawing lustily. At that time Ahasiw wore lovely white feathers which shone in the sunlight. Wisahkecahk asked Ahasiw, the crow, if he could watch the fire and keep the embers glowing to cook the meat, for Wisahkecahk had to make a trip around the bend. Ahasiw agreed and promised he would fan the coals with his wings to keep the fire burning.
wîshkêcâhk kî-sipwêhtêw êkwa âhâsiw kî-akosîw watihkwanihk ê-kî-kitâpahtahk kaskaskisiwa ê-kî-wâh-wâsêpayiyik êkwa ê-kî-pâh-pîtosinâstêyiki. piyiks kâ-kî-kawihkwasit. kêtahtawê yôtinipayin, kî-koskowihik yôtin âhâsiw. kî-wâpahtam iskotêw ê-kî-âstawêyik êsa, pihko êkwa kaskaskisîhkân piko êkota ê-astêyik. âhâsiw kî-nihci-pimihâw pihkohk isi ê-kî-kakwê-kwâhkotêhikêt kâ-miyonâkosiyit omîkwana ohci kita-wawêstahahk iskotêw piyisk kî-ati-kaskitêsiyiwa omîkwana ê-akwanahikot pihko êkwa kaskaskisiwa mâka namôya kî-kaskihtâw kita-kwahkotênikêt, âstawêw iskotêw!Wisahkecahk left and the crow perched himself on a branch and watched the coals flicker and change colour until he fell asleep. After a while, a gust of wind awoke Ahasiw and he found that the fire had burned down to ashes and charcoal. Ahasiw flew down to the ashes and quickly started fanning with his beautiful white feathers until they were covered with black dust and charcoal, but his efforts were all in vain for the fire was completely out.
ispîhk wîsahkêcâhk kâ-kî-takohtêt kî-kisiwâsiw ayisk ê-kî-nôhtêhkatêt êkwa namôya wiyâs kî-kîsitêyiw. aciyaw kî-koskwâpisin ayisk êkâ ê-kî-nisitawinawât âhâsiwa. kahkiyaw omîkwan kâ-kî-miyonâkosiyit, kâ-kî-wâsêsoyit, kaskitêsiyiwa êkwa, tâpiskôc anihi kaskaskisiwa iskotêhk êkâ kâ-kî-nâkatohkêt.When Wisahkecahk returned he was angry, for he was hungry and the meat wasn’t cooked, but he just stared for a minute for he did not recognize the crow. All of Ahasiw’s lovely white feathers were now as black as the embers in the fire which he had neglected.
êkospîhk ohci âhâsiw namôya kî-miywêyimikow kotaka piyêsîsa êkwa kî-kaskitêsiyiwa omîkwana kâkikê. ayisk êkâ ê-kî-kaskihtât kîkway kita-itôtahk kâ-atotiht. êkospîhk ohci kahkiyaw âhâsiwak kî-kaskitê-mîkwaniwak. êkwa kî-nakatêw wîsahkêcâhk âhâsiwa, êkwa kitimâki-âhâsiw kî-sipwêhâw, ê-kî-kitot, kâw-kâw-kâw.From that time on Ahasiw, the Crow, would not be liked by the other birds, and his colour would be black forever. Because the crow cannot be trusted with even a small task, all of the crows from that time on would also have black feathers. And Wisahkecahk left Ahasiw, and poor Ahasiw the crow flew away, caw­ing and cawing and cawing.

The cover image for this story uses a photo by Solomon Ratt, but in the process of hunting for a suitable image, we were delighted to discover the smoke- and fire-based artwork of Steven Spazuk. It seems like a natural connection to the crow and its sooty wings (and his crows are amazing!) s0, so we’re delighted to share this link.  Maybe if Spazuk sees this post, he’ll appreciate the Cree legend in return!

For more Cree Legends, and previous posts for Indigenous storytelling month, click here! 

One Response

  1. Love it. My late father would share stories about wîshkêcâhk. Love what you are sharing, please share more.

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