when i think of mama in residential school

By Rosanna Deerchild, 2015, Cree Canadian. Translated by Solomon Ratt (th-dialect). Source: Cree Literacy Network, https://creeliteracy.org/2016/05/06/rosanna-deerchild-translated-by-solomon-ratt-th-dialect-with-audio/

when i think of mama in residential school
i think of my girls
my sun
first to reach my horizon
my moon
a dream come true
long lithe limbs
sweet berry mouths
brown eyes shimmer
skin burnished copper
if the indian agent came
commanded give me your children
if the mounties came
demanded stand aside
if the government came
declared it is the law
if they came for them
what would i do
would i call down the sun
would i call down the moon
if they came for my girls
would i call down the sky
what solace would i find
there in the silence

ispî kâ-mâmitonîthimak mâmâ ohpimî-kiskinwahamâtowikamikohk kâ-kî-ayât
nimâmitonîthimâwak nitânisak
nipîsim
nîkân î-takosihk niwahthaw-kîsinôkwanimihk
nitipiskâwipîsim
nipowâtamowin î-tâpwîpathik
sîkwâpî-kinokâtîwak
sîwâwa mînis mitôna
osâwahcâpa cahcahkâtîpathinwa
wasakay kosawihkasimihk sôniyâwâpisk
kîspin sôniyâwikimâw pî-itohtîci
nitisiwâtik mîthin kicawâsimisak
kîspin simâkanisak pî-itohtîtwâwi
nititikwak îkatî-kapawi
kîspin okimâwowin pî-itohtîci
itwîw othasowîwin ôma
kîspin pî-nâtâtwâwi
tânisi îtokî nikakî-itôtamohtay
nikakî-nihci-tîpwâtâhtay cî pîsim
nikakî-nihci-tîpwâtâhtay cî tipiskâwi-pîsim
kîspin pî-nâtâtwâwi nitânisa
nikakî-nihci-tîpwâtîhtay cî kîsik
kîko nahîthihtamowin nikakî-miskamohtay
ikota kipihtowîwinihk

For the purposes of this poetry site, I’ve included the English version and the Cree SRO. The Standard Roman Orthography (SRO) and syllabics versions, as well as an audio recording, are found on the original site, as well as a very interesting explanation of the use of SRO in Cree language. I encourage all readers, especially those with an interest in language, to read – and listen.

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