mitoni niya nêhiyaw / Cree is Who I Truly Am
nêhiyaw-iskwêw mitoni niya / Me, I am Truly a Cree Woman
Strong women dominate these reminiscences: the grandmother taught the girl whose mother refused to let her go to school, and the life-changing events they witnessed range from the ravages of the influenza epidemic of 1918–20, to murder committed in a jealous rage, to the abduction of a young woman by underground spirits who grant her healing powers upon her release.
A highly personal document, these memoirs are altogether exceptional in recounting the thoughts and feelings of a Cree woman as she copes with the impacts of colonialism but also, in a key chapter, with her loneliness while tending a relative’s children in a place far from home––and away from the company of other women. Her experiences and reactions throw fresh light on the lives lived by Plains Cree women on the Canadian prairies over much of the twentieth century.
Sarah Whitecalf (1919–1991) spoke Cree exclusively, spending most of her life at Nakiwacîhk / Sweetgrass Reserve on the North Saskatchewan River. This is where Leonard Bloomfield was told what would be collected as Sacred Stories of the Sweet Grass Cree in 1925 and where a decade later David Mandelbaum apprenticed himself to Kâ-miyokîsihkwêw / Fineday, the step-grandfather in whose family Sarah Whitecalf grew up.
In presenting a Cree woman’s view of her world, these memoirs directly reflect the spoken word: Sarah Whitecalf’s reminiscences are here printed in Cree exactly as she recorded them, with a close English translation on the facing page. These chapters constitute an autobiography of great personal authority and rare authenticity.
About the Authors
Sarah Whitecalf (1919–1991) spoke Cree exclusively, spending most of her life at Nakiwacîhk/Sweetgrass Reserve on the North Saskatchwan River. Her lectures are collected in The Cree Language Is Our Identity.
H.C. Wolfart is University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of Manitoba.
Freda Ahenakew (1932–2011), founding director of the Saskatchewan Indian Languages Institute, earned her MA in Cree linguistics at the University of Manitoba. Ahenakew received an honorary LLD from the University of Saskatchewan (1997) and was named to the World Indigenous Education Task Force.
- mitoni niya nêhiyaw / Cree is Who I Truly Am: nêhiyaw-iskwêw mitoni niya / Me, I am Truly a Cree Woman
- Sarah Whitecalf (Author), H.C. Wolfart (Editor), Freda Ahenakew (Editor)
- Published March 2021, 248 pages
- Paper, ISBN: 978-0-88755-942-6, 6 × 9, $29.95
- Topic(s): Autobiography, Indigenous Studies, Linguistics
- Part of the U of M Press series: Publications of the Algonquian Text Society