I am learning to speak Cree
and I hear the language
in the land
not uprooted by sôniyâw.
Some may wish to call me môniyâw
because of the colour of my skin.
Let me tell you about my roots.
I learned a Cree word
and I really like it.
We use it to mean cucumbers.
Let me “do a derivation” for you
the logic of the language.
ohkom-: the root for “grandmother”
nôhkom: “my grandmother”
kôhkom: “your grandmother”
kôhkominaw: “our grandmother”
You can already hear the logic of nêhiyawêwin.
-pan means “late,” “someone passed on or deceased.”
So the literal translation for kôhkomipaninawak
is “Our late grandmothers.”
But we also use the word to mean cucumbers.
“Where is the logic in cucumbers?” you ask.
Be patient, nitôtêm, be patient
and I will tell you.
When you plant a cucumber seed it grows
and spreads all over the place.
A whole bunch of cucumbers all over . . .
when you pick them, of course, each time you pick them
new little ones will sprout and grow.
kôhkomipaninawak tells of the grandmother’s lineage.
nôtokwêw is “Old Woman.”
An endearing term, complimentary.
See the proud grandmother in her garden
full of children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Her lineage, rooted in the land.
Her kinfolk, cucumbers multiplying.
My mother’s mother,
nôhkom didn’t speak a lot of Cree because
she was born at a time when
kihc-ôkimânâhk told her she couldn’t
be an Indian.
But Grandma planted kôhkomipaninawak anyway.
nôhkom mistahi kî-miyohtwâw ê-kî-âpihtawikosisâniskwêwit
êkwa mistahi nikî-sâkihâw.
Listen. Can you hear the lyricism in the language
nôhkom mistahi kisâkihitin.
ohtâwîmâw: the word for “father,”
kohtâwiy: “your father.”
Sweet logic says nohtâwiy is
A woman once told my father
it didn’t matter how well he spoke Cree,
she wouldn’t like him because
he was a môniyâw.
nohtâwiy namôya nêhiyaw mâka mistahi pakaski-nêhiyawêw.
nohtâwiy mistahi miyohtwâw môniyâw.
nohtâwiy mistahi kisâkihitin.
okâwîmâw: the word for “mother,”
kikâwiy: “your mother.”
Logic and love tell me
nikâwiy is “my mother.”
A colleague asked my mother, over and over,
“What nationality are you?”
“Métis,” said my mother, “does it matter?”
The colleague didn’t have much to say
to my mother after that.
nikâwiy namôya nêhiyawêw mâka mistahi ê-pakaski-pîkiskwêt sâkihiwêwin.
nikâwiy mistahi miyohtwâw ê-âpihtawikosisâniskwêwit.
nikâwiy mistahi kisâkihitin.
This is the colour of my skin: nasakay wâpiskisiw.
This is the colour of my blood: nimihkom mihkwâw.
Did you know, it’s the same colour as your blood?
This is the colour of my roots: mihkwâw.
Kinship means much in nêhiyawêwin.
I learned a Cree word.
I quite like it.
kôhkomipaninawak — cucumbers.
All these little roots: they sprout, they spread,
Language and land, logic and love, lineage and lyricism.
If you pick the cucumbers, of course,
they will spread all over the place.
êkwa kâ-nîmihitocik mistahi katawasisiwak.