kayâs-âyiwan anima mêskanâs ê-kî-pisci-miskamân, kâ-kî-âpacihtâcik nitâniskêwiyiniwak
I stumbled upon that ancient trail, foot-fallen by my ancestors,
overgrown with green, bramble, centuries of former lives.
That green, wet place where my grandmother’s
mothers lived, breathed, died:
Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba.
There, on another river:
êkota kotak sîpîhk,
We pulled our canoes up on shore,
stood there sweating, swearing
at the buzzing in our ears, peering
through the peepholes of our mosquito netting.
Comrades paddled those canoes with me,
sharing food, bugs, sunshine, rain;
travelled with me as I explored
Others, a convoy of my ancestors,
in my paddle,
in my pack,
in my experience,
wraiths insisting on a presence.
Shoulders, backs, abdominals, we are
our muscles. We move those canoes.
nitihtimaninâna, nispiskwaninâna, nitaskatayinâna,
There I stood: worn like our trail, weary
like the grip on my paddle, smeared
with mud, sweating like the river, straining
to hear the whispers of my foremothers,
searching for the footprints of my forefathers.
Eavesdropping on my ancestors,
now I hear footfalls that echo through time.
anohc êkwa nipêhtên ê-matwê-pimohtêcik, ê-paswêwêki, kayâs nâway ohci.
My grandmother knows that insect-infested place,
Lac du Bonnet. Her uncle drowned there,
her mother was born there,
and her grandmother before that.
Here I stand: looking, leaning back.
want to know who I am,
search for who they were.
ê-na-nîpawiyân ôta: ê-âpasâpahtamân, ê-âsôsimoyân.
ê-nôhtê-kiskêyihtamân awîna niya,
ê-nanâtawâpamakik awînipanak wiyawâw.