Quoting Crowfoot in Cree

kîkwây anima pimâtisiwin?
êwako anima owâstêpayowin kwâhkwâhkocîs kâ-tipiskâk;
êwako anima oyêhyêwin paskwâwi-mostos kâ-pipohk;
êwako anima cikâstêsiniwin kâ-taskamipayik maskosîhk
êkwa ê-wanipayik kâ-pâhkisimok.

ᑮᒁᐩ ᐊᓂᒪ ᐱᒫᑎᓯᐏᐣ?
ᐁᐘᑯ ᐊᓂᒪ ᐅᐚᐢᑌᐸᔪᐏᐣ ᒁᐦᒁᐦᑯᒌᐢ ᑳ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐠ;
ᐁᐘᑯ ᐊᓂᒪ ᐅᔦᐦᔦᐏᐣ ᐸᐢᒁᐏ ᒧᐢᑐᐢ ᑳ ᐱᐳᕽ;
ᐁᐘᑯ ᐊᓂᒪ ᒋᑳᐢᑌᓯᓂᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑕᐢᑲᒥᐸᔨᐠ ᒪᐢᑯᓰᕽ
ᐁᑿ ᐁ ᐘᓂᐸᔨᐠ ᑳ ᐹᐦᑭᓯᒧᐠ᙮
–  ᓯᑳᑿᔮᐣ

What is life?
It is the flash of the firefly in the night;
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime;
It is the little shadow that runs across the grass,
And loses itself in the sunset.
– Chief Crowfoot

Thanks to Chief Billy Joe Laboucan whose translation of the first line instigated Sol to complete this quotation in Cree. Crowfoot was known in Cree as sikâkwayân (rendered in SRO from Norma Sluman’s 1967 biography of Poundmaker, where he’s referred to as “Seka‑kinyan”). As the adopted father of Poundmaker, Cree is almost certainly among the languages he spoke.

This c.1885 photo of Crowfoot is from the collection of Library and Archives Canada/Topley Studio/Topley Studio fonds (Negative no. PA-009256). The Dictionary of Canadian Biography tells us that his Blackfoot name was, Isapo-muxika. He was known in French as Pied de Corbeau. He was born in southern Alberta, son of Blood Indians Istowun-eh’pata (Packs a Knife) and Axkyahp-say-pi (Attacked Toward Home); d. 25 April 1890, near Blackfoot Crossing (Alta). I’m not sure how to authenticate this quote, but it is regularly associated with his name, and it really is lovely. Thanks to Solomon Ratt for providing audio.

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