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  • Andrea Custer

wapâwikoscikanihk

Pelican Narrows, SK; Woods Cree reserve; literally: at the narrows of fear CW. A ‘th’ dialect Cree translation about the Narrows of Fear. I dedicate this blog to my late grandmother Mary Custer and to the children of Pelican Narrows.


Note: I think everyone should know the Cree name of their homelands; it builds a connection to the lands and waters. Here is the story of my home reserve of Pelican Narrows shared with me by my late grandmother Mary Custer. It starts off with a little introduction in Cree followed by the English translation and then the actual story itself in Cree followed again by the English translation.


iyako ōma ācimowin wapâwikoscikanihk ohci, ikosi nohkomipan Mary Custer kā-kī-itīht ī-kī-ācimostawit nīstanaw kihci-mitātahtomitanaw nistosāp askīwin ī-kī-ispathik.

ikospīhk mīkwāc ī-kī-atoskīyān KCDC ohci nītī wapâwikoscikan ayamihcikīwikamikohk, oski-otatoskīw nikī-itakison. nikī-atotik nitōkimām ta-mamithwācihkīmakwāw ikwa ta-cikāstīpitakwāw kihtī-ayak wapâwikoscikanihk ohci. iyako ōma kā-masinahamān kā-isi-kiskisiyān, wiyakāc, namōtha nikī-ohci-miskīn anima cikāstīpicikan kā-kī-otinamān, kahkithaw ōma kā-isi-kiskisiyān ikwa kā-isi-nīhithawastāyān nītha; Andrea Custer. mihcīt ihtakona ōho ācimowina; nītha ikwa ōma nitācimowin; ī-kī-ācimostawit nohkomipan, kīthawāw ikwa kitācimōstātināwāw. wapāwikoscikanihk apisci-kīwītinohk kisiskāciwanihk astīw. kisiwāk mihcītinwa sākahikana ikwa sīpiya mīna asinīskāw askiy iyak-ohci ōko ithiniwak ikota kā-wīkicik asinīskāwithiniwak kā-itihcik.mīskanahk ta-pimōhtīhiyan, nānitaw ītokwī mitātahtomitanaw kīkā-mitatāhtosāp cipahiskānisa kimosōm-pwātināhk ohci isko wapāwikoscikanihk. wīhcasin ta-pimōhtīhoyan cīman ta-āpacihtāyan athisk namōtha kīkway pāwistikwa ahpō onikāhpa ta-taskamāman. asinīskāwithiniwak māna ī-kī-wīcīhtācik ta-pimōhtīhocik cīmāna ohci; ī-kī-āsowahahkwāw māna sīpiya, pāwistikwa ikwa onikāhpa athisk māhtāwi-sīpiy mistahi ī-kī-pimōhtīhonānowik, iyako ‘kihci-mīskanaw’ ikospīhk.


This is the story of “Narrows of Fear” as told to me by my late grandmother Mary Custer in 2003. While I worked as an Intern for KCDC at the wapāwikoscikanihk Library. One request my supervisor had was to go and interview and take pictures of the elders from Pelican Narrows. What I have written here is from memory, unfortunately, I was unable to locate the video I had recorded. It was told all in Cree and translated by me; Andrea Custer. There are many versions of this story; this is now mine, passed down from my late grandmother and now I am telling the story to you. Pelican Narrows is in Northeast Saskatchewan. Nearby are many lakes and rivers and rocky terrain which is why the Cree living in these areas are known as Rock Cree. To travel by road, it is about 119 kilometres from Deschambault to Pelican Narrows. By canoe, it would be relatively easy travel as there are no rapids or portages to cross. The Rock Cree were used to travelling by Canoe; crossing rivers, rapids and portages as the Churchill River was the ‘main’ highway back in those years.


wapāwikoscikanihk ~ Narrows of Fear


kayās ōma ācimowin; mwayī-mōniyawak ī-takosīhkwāw kīwītinohk.

ōta māna ī-kī-ayācik ikwa ī-kī-māmawīcik āskaw asinīskāwithiniwak wapāwikoscikanihk ikwa kā-isithihkātīk. kayās ōma kā-ākathāsīmowin ta-itwīyan Pelican Narrows, asinīskāwi-kihtī­-ayak, iskwīwak ikwa awāsisak kā-kī-nipahākocik pwāta. mīkwāc nāpīwak ī-kī-māhiskahkwāw, ahtaya ē-kī-nitawi-atāwākīcik māmihk, pwātak kī-sastahikīwak ikota kā-kī-ayācik ōki asinīskāwithiniwak.

nīso kihtī-ayak kī-kitāpamīwak anihi iskwīwa ikwa awāsisa; īkā nānitaw ta-itinikīthit. kītahtawī īsa piyak kīsikāw, piyak ana kihtī-aya kā-wīhtamawāt anihi kotaka kihtī-aya (wīci-kihtī-aya) awiya ī-pī-itīthimāt ī-wī-mathipathihikocik ikwa ta-kī-nitawi-kāsōcik. ī-kī-pawāmit īsa. kayās māna ikospīhk athisitiniwak ī-kī-mamāhtāwisicik, ī-kī-wāpahtahkwāw kīkwātho. kotak awa kihtī-aya namōtha wītha kīkwātho kī-wāpahtam ikwa namōtha nitohtawīw anihi wīci- kihtī-aya. ikwa awa nistam kihtī-aya kā-kī-kitāpamāt iskwīwa ikwa awāsisa itohtahīw wacīhk ikotī wātiy ī-kī-astīk. wīpāc ī-pī-kīkisīpāyak kotak kīsikāw ī-ispathik ōko pwātak kī-pī-takosiniwak mīkwāc kahkithaw ōko asinīskāwi-iskwīwak ikwa awāsisak ī-kī-nipācik. pwātak kahkithaw k­ī-nipahīwak ōko ikota kā-kī­-ayāthit. nīso poko nāpīsisa kī-otinīwak ikwa kī-nakatīwak ministikohk wahthawīs ikota ohci kā-kī-otinihcik.

aniki pwātak kā-kī-isi­-pimōhtīhocik kimosōm-pwātinak isi. ikwāni īsa nāpīwak kā-kī-matwī-takocimīcik ikwa kī-wāpahtamwak kā-kī-ispathihikokothit otōtīmiwāwa. kī-kisiwipathiwak ikwa nohtī-āpīhowak ōko nāpīwak; nawasiwātīwak anihi pwāta ka-isi-sipwītīcik. ikospīhk athisk māna ī-kī-sōhkāni-pimiskācik. k­ī-atimiskawīwak kimosōm-pwātinahk, ikota kā-kī-kipwātikanīcik ikwa kahkithaw kā-kī-nipahācik. kī-iskonīwak anihi okimāwa, kī-nipahīwak iskwīyānihk, nisīhkāc ī-kī-nipahācik ī-kīski-kwayawīsāwātācik. iyakōhci anima Deschambault Lake kā-isi-thihkātīk kimosōm pwātinahk ta-nīhithawiyan, ikwa Pelican Narrows kā-isi-thihkātīk wapāwikoscikanihk.


This is an old story; before the white men arrived in the North. This is where the Rocky Cree would gather and stay occasionally, in what is now known as “Narrows of Fear” A long time ago in what is now known in English as Pelican Narrows there was a massacre of the Rocky Cree elders, women and children by the Sioux. While the men were away trading fur (downriver), the Sioux snuck on up the camp where the Rocky Cree were staying. There were two elders that oversaw the women and children; they were in charge of their safety. Suddenly one day, one of the elders told the other elder that he saw the danger coming and that they should go and hide. He was a visionary. Back in those days, people were powerful, they could see things coming. The other elder did not foresee any danger and thus did not listen to his fellow elder. Now, the first elder took the women and children he was looking after and went and hid up in the hills where there was a cave. Early the next morning on the following day, the Dakota Sioux arrived early in the morning while the Rocky women and children slept. The Sioux killed everyone there except for two young boys whom they took and left on an island further away from what where they were taken. The Sioux then continued to travel towards Deschambault Lake. When the men arrived back at home; they saw what had happened to their kinsman. The men were angry and sought revenge, they tracked and followed the Dakota Sioux as fast as they could. In those days, they would paddle fast. They caught up to them in Deschambault Lake, where they surrounded and killed them all. They saved the chief for last, they killed him slowly by cutting his neck. This is why Deschambault Lake is called kimosōm pwātinahk in Cree which means Grandfather Sioux and why Pelican Narrows is called wapāwikoscikanihk is called Narrows of Fear.



Late grandparents: Henry Custer and his wife Mary Custer

nimosōmipan Henry Custer kā-kī-itīht ikwa wīkimākanipana nohkomipan Mary Custer kā-kī-itiht.

Photo Credit: Andrea Custer

nītha Andrea Custer kā-kī-cikāstīpitakwāw



To hear the audio please visit Cree Language Literacy Network at https://creeliteracy.org/

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