We Are Rich: Andrea Custer H. Clark (th-dialect)

kiwīthōtisinānaw: We Are Rich

Family Memories from Andrea Custer H. Clarke (th-dialect)

It’s been over two years since Andrea Custer and I first discussed sharing this piece that she wrote about her family and her childhood, and the words of wisdom shared by ohkomipana, her late grandmother. It surfaced mysteriously today on my laptop, and Andrea was kind enough to approve its publication even as she prepares to launch an epic two-week canoe adventure that she’s called “Following the Trails of our Ancestors.” During their two-weeks of paddling and living off the land, they will paddle up the same māhtāwi-sīpiy (Churchill River) that Andrea mentions with affection, as part of their route from Southend, Saskatchewan to Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan. And they’ll be paddling canoes labelled: ᓃᖬ ᐆᒪ ᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐏᓂᖬᐤ / nîtha ôma asinîskâwithiniw / I am Rock Cree. 

We wish her and the whole crew safe travels through the adventure of a lifetime, as they work together to master traditional Cree life skills of living on the land and water. I’ve included a selection of family photos that Andrea sent with the original article in a gallery below. As you’ll see, Andrea’s son Andrew has been training for this adventure his whole life! The feature photo, above, was taken today with the complete crew assembled after some last-minute training, all ready to launch tomorrow. And while we look forward to photo updates via FaceBook, we also look forward to an audio recording – eventually – at some future date when Andrea finds a few rare moments of quiet!

[1] nimitho-kiskisin kā-kī-pī-awāsisīwiyāhk nītha ikwa nītisānak onikāyāmihk ninīkihikonānak, nitōsisinānak, nohkomisinānak, nimosōminānak, nōhkominānak ikwa nītisānak asici. kahkithaw mīna nikī-nīhithawānān.

I have good memories of us children growing up at Uskik Lake with our parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and brothers and sisters (cousins). We all spoke Cree too.

[2] onikāyāmihk anima pikwācāyihk astīw anima sākahikan ikota māhtāwi-sīpiy kā-pimiciwahk kisiwāk askihk-pāwistikohk.  niyānan onikāhpa poko ka-miyāskaman, pāwistikwa, kayāsi asinīyāpiskāw, asīniyāpiyak mīna ikota apiwak ikwa misāci nanātohk pisiskiwak ayāwak. ikota kā-kī-wīkicik kitāniskocāpaninawak ikwa iyako kā-kī-nakatamākoyāhkwāw.

Uskik Lake is an isolated lake located along the Churchill River near Kettle Falls. There are five portages to get through, rapids, precambrian shield of rock with some areas covered with rock paintings and there is an abundance of wildlife. It was the home of our ancestors and is our inheritance.

[3] nimosōmipan Andrew C. Custer kā-kī-itiht māna ī-kī-okanawīthihcikīwit, ikwa nōhkomipan māna kī-piminawatīw otāstawīhikīwa. onikāyāmihk māna āskaw ī-kī-apacītācik otāstawīhikiwi-kapīsiwin ohci ikospīhk māna kā-nihtā-pāh-pasitīk. kwayask māna mistahi kī-itahkamikan, mistahi itiniwak, mīciwin ikwa kī-mōcikan. kapī māna nimosōmipan nikī-kīmōci-asamikonān sīwāpoy ikwa mīciwinisa. piyakwāw ikwa kā-nīpihk kī-takosiniwak āsa-mīna otāstawīhikīwak ī-kī-pasitīk kisiwāk ikwa mistahi pimithākana ikwa cowīhkanāpisīsa kī-takopathinwa ikota onikāyāmihk.

My late grandfather Andrew C. Custer was a conservation officer, and my late grandmother would often cook for the firemen. Our camp at Uskik Lake was sometimes the base camp during the fire season. It was always busy, full of people, food, and fun. I would say we were spoiled because our late grandfather would often sneak us fruit drinks and snacks.  One summer, there was a fire nearby and planes and helicopters would often come to Uskik.

[4] nōhkomipan māna kistikān ī-kī-ayāt ikota ikwa āskaw cowīhkanāpisīs ī-kī-pakiciwīpinahk nipiy, ī-sīkahāhtahk animīthow kistikān ikwa kahkithaw nīthanān awāsisak ī-ispahtāyāhk ikotī. mitoni nikī-mōcikīhtānān.

Now my late grandmother had a garden there and sometimes a helicopter would come drop off water to splash her garden. When it did, all us children would run there so we could get splashed too, we had a lot of fun.

[5] ikospīhk māna kā-kisāstīk, nikī-nitawi-pakāsimonān nāsipītimihk ahpō akāmihk. nikī-pimipahtānān sakāhk Sewapak asici kā-kī-wīkicik kaskīw onikāyāmihk. kā-tipiskāk, nikī-kanawāpamānānak wāstīmanicōsak ikwa wāwāhtīwa.

During hot summer days, we would go swim in the lake down the hill or across the way. We would run through the bushes with the Sewap family who lived on the other side of Uskik Lake. At night, we would watch the fireflies and the Northern Lights.

[6] nikī-kanawāpamānānak māna ninīkihikonānak, nitōsisinānak ikwa nōhkomisinānak ī-atoskīcik, kahkithaw kīkway kā-nitawīthihtamahk ī-atoskātahkwāw. kī-nipāhcikīwak māna tapiskōc mōswa, amiskwa, wacaskwa ikwa kinosīwa. nikī-nitawī-mawisōnān mīna mīnisa ikwa wīhkaskwa wīhkaskwāpoy ohci. āskaw nikī-cīmānānak cīmānihk kā-nitawi-nātathapīcik.

We would watch our parents, aunties and uncles do the camp work of making sure we had everything we needed. Killing wild game such as moose, beaver, muskrat, and fish. Going out to pick berries and wild mint for our mint tea. Sometimes, we would go with them by canoe as well to pull the net in.

[7] mitoni mitho-kiskisiwina ōho kiwāhkōmākanak kā-kī-nakatamākawāhkwāw. ikwāni ikwa nimosōmipan ikwa nōhkomipan ī-nakatikoyāhkwāw ikwa ninīkihikonānak ī-ati-kisi-ayawicik. nimihtātīn māna ikospīhk māka nitāpwīhtīn ithikohk mistahi mitho-kīkwāthow kikī-kiskinwahamākonawak iyako nīsta nicawāsimisak ikwa nōsisimak kā-nōhtī-nakatamawakwāw. 

Such beautiful memories our family left for us. Now both my grandparents are gone, and our parents are aging as well. My heart grieves for those days, but I believe they gave us the best teachings of our lives and what they did for us is something that I too, wish to pass onto my own children and grandchildren.

[8] kā-wanihakwāw nōhkomipan Sophie ikwa nitōsisipan Sandra anohcihkī nikoskopathin ithikohk kakī-wīhci-wanīhtāyahk kinihithawātisinaw ikwa kakī-wīhci-waniyahkwāw kinīkihikonānawak. āsay nohtāwipan kī-pōni-pimātisiw. ninōhtī-manācīhtān aniki kihci-kiskinwahamākīwina kā-kī-mīthikoyahkwāw.

Losing my late grandmother Sophie and late auntie Sandra recently was a wake-up call to exactly how vulnerable life really is for our way of life and our parents. My late father Richard is already passed on. What I also wish to hold onto is the teachings and values they left for us.

[9] nōhkomipan Sophie A Custer (nee Ballantyne) kī-nihtāwikiw wīposkāw-sākahikanihk 1937 askīwin kā-kī-ispathik. kī-sipwīhtahāw kā-kī-apisīsisit ayamihāwi-kiskinwahamātowikamikohk isi. kī-wanihīw mīna onīkihikwa kā-apisīsisit mitoni. nītī ayamihāwi-kiskinwahamātowikamikohk kī-kitimahāw isko osām kā-kisi-ayawit. nikotwāsosāp kā-itahtopiponīt kī-wīkimīw nimosōmipana Andrew C. Custer ikwa mitātaht awāsisa kī-ohpikihīwak. nīsosap awāsisa kā-kī-ayāwācik māka nīso kī-pōni-pimātisithiwa kā-kī-apisīsisithit. kī-ohpikihīwak nikāwiya, nitōsisa ikwa nōhkomisa ī-maskawisīhācik nīhithawātisiwin ikwa nīhithawīwin ohci. māka ayamihāwi-kiskinwahamātowikamikwa kī-wanāhikowak kiyāpic māka wītha kī-kaskīhtāwak kwayask ta-ohpikihāwasocik. nimīhtātāwak māna. nōhkomipan māna kī-mākōhtāw ka-wāpahtahāt ocawāsimisa sākihitowin ahpō kī-mākōhtāw “kisākihitin” ta-itwīt. mōtha māka wītha nitatāmīthimāw, tānisi māka ta-kī-isi-wāpahtathōkīt sākihitowin ī-kī-wanihāt onīkihikwa kā-kī-apisīsisit ikwa ithikohk ī-kī-kitimahikawit ayamihāwi-kiskinwahamātowikamikohk? ati pātimā kā-ati-kisi-ayawit kī-ati-kaskihtāw “kisākihitin” ta-itwīt. kā-kī-pīhtawak māna nikī-mithōhtawāw ikwa kī-mōskinīw nitīh. nikī-wāpahtahikokonān tāpowakīthihtamowin ikwa mōtha wīhkāc kī-ohci-minihkwīw. mōtha mīna wīhkāc kī-mawimoskiw.

My late grandmother Sophie A. Custer (nee Ballantyne) was born at Burnt Wood Lake in 1937. She was sent to residential school at a young age, she also lost both parents as a very young child. At residential school she experienced abuses until she was too old to continue going to school. At 16 she married my late grandfather Andrew C. Custer and together they raised 10 children, they had 12 but two passed when they were still babies. They raised my mother, aunts, and uncles with strong ties to language and culture. Tinged by residential schools, I would say they still did a beautiful job. I miss them. My late grandmother had a difficult time showing any affection and saying I love you was hard. I did not blame her for how could she when she lost both parents and was raised in the harsh conditions of residential schools? As she got older, she was able to say, “I love you”. When I would hear her say those words, they were music to my ears and filled my heart with joy. She was a model for faith and an alcohol-free life, and she was not one to whine.

[10] nikī-wīhtamākawinān ī-ayāwāt manicōsa thithikopīwipīsim 2020 askīwin kā-kī-ispathik, ikwa mwīstas piyak askiy kī-nipahikow āhkosiwin. ī-mwayī-nakataskīt nikī-wītapamāw ikwa
nikī-kakwīcimāw kīko kiskinwahamākīwina kā-nitawīthihtahk niwāhkōmākaninānak
ta-kiskīthihtāhkwāw. omisi kī-itwīw 

We found out she had cancer in December 2020 and a year later, she would succumb to the illness. Before her passing, I sat down with her and asked her what teachings she wanted my family to know, and this is what she said.

[11] natohtawīkaw kīhtī-ayak

Listen to the elders

[12] kwayask kiskinwahamawik kitawāsimisak tā-atoskīcik, īkā ka-pakosīthimācik onīkihikowāwa, kwayask ka-kaskīhtācik ta-pamihāwasocik.

Raise your children to work hard so that they will not ask for support from their parents and they will be able to provide of themselves and their families.

[13] papiyahtak kitahamawik kitawāsimisak, kāwitha tīpwātik, wāpahtathik kikisīwātiswin.

Do not discipline your children harshly, do not yell at them but be kind.

[14] kā-ispathik, piyakokīsikaw isko niyānokīsikaw kikī-atoskān ikwa kinakatawāson,
kā-mātināwi-kīsikāk ikwa kā-ayamihāwi-kīsikāk kiskinwahamawik kitawāsimisak ī-sākihacik. ikota nahipathin kīkwāthow ta-kiskinwahamawacik.

You work during the week and leave your children; the weekend is the perfect time to spend time to teach them good things. To show them that you love them.

[15] kāwitha kispīwāsik kitawāsimisak, ka-ati-athimīhtāwak ati pātimā

Do not be over-protective of your children, they will have a difficult time in the future.

[16] kiskinawahamāwik kitawāsimisak ta-ayamihācik, ta-nanāskomocik kā-waniskācik ikwa kā-ati-nipācik.

Teach your children to pray and be grateful when they wake up and go to sleep

[17] Sandra Sewap (nee Custer) opiniyāwīwi-pīsim kīkā-mitātaht ī-kī-akimāw, 1958 kā-kī-nihtāwikit nitōsisipan. owīkimākana nōhkomis Larry Sr. Sewap ikwa tīpakohp awāsisa kī-ohpikihīwak. wīthawāw mīna mistahi kī-ayāwak onikāyāmihk kisik nītisānak ī-kiskinwahamawācik nīhithaw pimātisiwin, ta-isi-pamihisocik askīhk. nitōsis kī-tāpwīkīthihtam wāhkōhtowin. nikī-kitahamāk māna īkā ta-āpacīhtāyān anihi wīhthowiniwāwa māka ta-āpacīhtāyān tānisi kā-isi-wāhkōmakwāw niwāhkōmākanak. nitōsisipan māna kī-nihtā-ācimow wītha. wītha mīna kwayask kā-kī-pimohtātak wāhkōhtowin. māka mīna wīsta kī-wanāhikow ayamihāwi-kiskinwahamātowikamikwa nimosōma ikwa nōhkoma ohci kiyāpic māka wītha kī-kaskīhtāwak kwayask ta-ohpikihācik nītisāna. kaskīhtāwak kahkithaw ta-nīhithowīcik, nītisānak mīna nakacīhtāwak nipiy ikwa askiy pikwācāyihk, kaskīhtawak ta-osīhtācik kīkwāthow kā-isi-āpacīhtācik, nihtā-mācīwak ikwa nihtā-pakitahwāwak. iyako ōma wīthōtisiwin. mistahi nīhithaw kiskīthīhtamowin ī-ayācik ikwa namwāc mwāsi ākathāsīmowak. kīspin osām mistahi nitākathāsīmōhkāson, nika-kitahamākwak ikwa nisihkimikwak ka-nīhitawīyān. nitōsisipan ka-kī-pahpihtay iwako ohci. kī-mamihcihikow māna ocawāsimisa.

My late auntie Sandra Sewap (nee Custer) was born June 9, 1958. She was the wife of Larry Sr. Sewap and together they raised 7 children. They also spent a lot of time at Uskik Lake with my brothers and sisters teaching them the way of land and life. My auntie believed in wāhkōhtowin. She would often give me a lecture if I strayed from using our relationship titles to our relatives and she was the storyteller in our family. My late auntie Sandra was a model of living wāhkōhtowin. However, she was impacted by residential schools through my grandparents, but she and Uncle Larry still did a wonderful job raising my brothers and sisters. They all know how to speak Cree, my brothers all know how to read the lands and waters, they know how to build what they need, they know how to hunt and fish. To me this is what it means to be rich. They are rich with knowledge, and they will not very often speak English. If I do that around them, they tend to remind me to speak my own language. My auntie would laugh about that. She was proud of all the things her children knew.

[18] kwayask māna āthiman kā-wanihāyahkwāw kiwāhkōmākaninawak māka ahci-poko ka-kakwī-mitho-kiskisiyahk kīkwāthow kā-kī-nakatamākoyahkwāw

It’s truly hard when we lose our relatives, but we should try to remember the good things they left for us and learn from our mistakes.

[19] mīhcīt itinowak kihci-kiskinwahamātowikamikohk ī-kakwī pīkiskwīcik otāniskocāpaniwāwa opīkiskwīwiniwāwa ikwa ī-nohti-nihtā-pamihisocik askīhk. ikwa kīstānaw kiyāpic ī-kaskīhtāyahk māka namwāc kikistīthīhtīnānaw. poko kīthānaw ka-itōtamowāyahkwāw kitawāsimisiniwak tāpiskōc kinīkihikonānawak, kimosōminawak ikwa kōhkominawak kā-kī-itōtamākoyahkwāw. mitoni kiwīthōtisinānaw ahci poko wīstawāw omisi kicawāsimisinawak ka-isi-wīthōtisicik īkā ta-kitimākisicik otahcahkowāwa, nīhithawātisiwin ikwa nīhithawīwin.

There are a lot of people in university who are trying to learn their ancestor’s language and learn the skills of how to survive and navigate on the land. Yet here we still have them, but I think we do not value them as much as we should. We must do for our children what our parents and grandparents did for us. We are rich, so must our children be rich lest they be poor in spirit, culture, and language.

[20] kiyokawīhkwāw kimosōmak, kōhkomak, kitōsisak, kohkomisak, kisisak ikwa kinīkihikowāwak mīkwā ōta ī-ayācik. mānacihik, kistīthimik, ikwa wāpahtathik sākihitowin.

Visit your grandfathers, grandmothers, aunties, uncles, and parents while they are still here. Hold them close, respect them and show them love.

[21] ninohtī-nanāskomāwak nisis Mike Custer, nitōsis Loretta Ballantyne ikwa nikāwiy Julianne Custer kā-wīcihicik ōma kā-kī-masinahamān ī-kī-kāh-kakwīcimakaw īkā ta-patisinahikiyān. ikwa mīna Solomon Ratt kwayask kā-masinihahk ikota kā-patisināhaman ninīhithawasinahikan.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to my uncle Mike Custer, auntie Loretta Ballantyne and my mother Julianne Custer for helping me write this, I would ask them questions to make sure I didn’t write anything incorrectly and to Solomon Ratt for editing my incorrect use of my Cree writing.

 

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