Mid-June 2004 and it feels
like January. Wind stirs up
white caps on the small lake,
on the small reserve, where
on a big hill stands an amphitheatre
with a roof but no walls.
We will not dance
the Ghost Dance on that hill.
Over there, where the young men
construct a lodge from the trunks
of young black poplar trees,
there we will dance
with kimosômipaninawak, kôhkomipaninawak
êkwa kahkiyaw kicâpâninawak
Two tripods hold up the lodge;
a small fire burns near each tripod.
Flames leap like the Northern Lights.
Blankets cover the cold ground.
Containers filled with food cover
the blankets at one end of the lodge,
the end where the women sit.
Seven men sit along one angle
of the elliptical structure, share
four drums, sing,
sing, sing the Ghost Dance song.
ê-nikamocik sâpohtawân nikamowin.
One man has a voice
sweet as saskatoon syrup.
Another man doesn’t sing
but pretends he’s a chicken.
Everyone laughs when this trickster —
awa môhcohkân —
crows at unpredictable times.
A helper — oskâpêwis — serves pimîhkân
near the tripod at the men’s end of the lodge.
We dance several circles,
the chicken-man sings several chicken songs,
and everyone laughs at this funny man.
êkwa kahkiyaw ê-pâhpihâyâhk
awa ê-wawiyatêyihtâkosit nâpêw.
Then we sit on the blankets on the ground,
ready to feast. A young man
quietly tells me not to sit cross-
legged. “êkâ êkosi itapi, kitôhkapin anima,” ê-isit.
I have since learned
to sit properly.
The food, prepared by the women,
is now served by the men.
The men serve the guests first.
All manner of food, Cree and not,
including a bucket
of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
We dance some more.
Chicken-man, from Onion Lake,
cackles some more.
kâh-kitow ayiwâk awa môhcohkân.
We eat more food.
The man with the voice sweet
as saskatoon syrup sings some more.
ê-nikamot ayiwâk awa nâpêw
Two years after the Ghost Dance,
a year and a half after Dad
walks through the opening,
someone tells me that the Cree call the
Ghost Dance sâpohtawân
because the ghosts walk through.
They pass right through.
sâpohtêwak just like Dad:
And those ghosts who are dancing,
the ones we dance with,
they are very beautiful.
êkwa aniki kâ-nîmihitocik,