Read Caribou Song

Text in bold is in the Cree Language.

Click on a link to learn more about a word or expression.

CARIBOU SONG

By © Tomson Highway

atíhko níkamon
Tomson Highway ohci

Joe and Cody lived with their mama, their papa,
and Cody’s black dog, Ootsie. They lived too far
north for most trees. Most of the year, the lakes and
islands and rivers and hills were covered in snow.

Joe ékwa Cody kí-wícáyáméwak mána omámáwáwa ékwa
opápáwáwa ékwa Cody océmisisa Otisiy. wáhyaw kíwéti-
nohk ká-kí-wíkicik ita kékác ká-paskwahk. osám piko mána
kapé-ayi sákahikanihk ékwa mistikohk ékwa sípihk ékwa
wacihk mistahi mana kóni kí-apiw.

All year long, they followed the caribou with a sled pulled by eight huskies.
“Mush!” Papa would yell, and the dogs would run straight forward.
“Cha!” he would shout, and they would turn right.
And when he yelled “U!” they turned left.

kapé-pipon mána atihkwa kí-pimitisahwéwak ayinánéw atimwak ékwa otápánákwa é-kí-ápacihácik.
“mush!” ká-ta-tépwét mána pápá, ékwa aspin mána atimwak é-sipwépahtácik.
“cha!” ká-ta-tépwét mána pápá ékwa atimwak óté isi mána ispahtáwak.
ekwa kíspin “u!” tépwéci, óté isi mína máná ispahtáwak.

Joe played the accordian, the kitoochigan. From morning
to night he played and sang, “Ateek, ateek! Astum, astum!
Yo-ah, ho-ho! Caribou, caribou! Come, come! Yo-ah, ho-ho!”

kwayask mána ká-kitócikéw mána Joe okitócikana. ékwa ani
kapé-kísik mána kitócikéw ékwa nikamo, “atihk, atihk! ástam,
ástam! yó ah hó hó.”

And from morning to night Cody danced.
He danced on the rocks, he danced on the ice,
he even danced under the full silver moon.

ékwa wísta Cody kapé-kísik mána nímihitow. asinihk
mána nímihitow, miskwamihk mána nímihitow ahpo
atámihk písim mána nímihitow.

One day, at the end of May, the family stopped on an island. After a lunch
of whitefish and bannock, Joe and Cody wandered off and found a meadow surrounded by forest. In the middle stood a great big rock.

“ Cody,” said Joe. “This is the perfect spot. Let’s sing and dance for the caribou. You dance
with your arms up like antlers. I’ll sing ‘Ateek, ateek’ and play kitoochigan. And
before you know it, ten thousand caribou will burst out of the forest.”

péyakwáw ésa óma mína é-síkwaniyik ká-picihcik ministikohk. é-kí-kísi-mówácik atihkamikwa ékwa
pahkwésikana, Joe ékwa Cody ká-nitawi-papámohtécik nócim-
ihk ékwa namóya wahyaw ékota táwáyihk ká-sákapit mistasiniy.

“Cody,” Joe ká-itwét, “óta máwaci miywásin. nikamotán ékwa nímihitotán atihkwak ohci. nímihito kiya otéskanak tápiskóc kispitona ka-isi-miciminaman ékwa niya
nika-nikamon, ‘atihk, atihk’ nika-kitócikán. ékwa sémák mihcét atihkwak ta-takopahtáwak.”

So Cody raised his arms to look like antlers, and began to dance. He lifted
his left moccasin, then his right. Then his left, and then, oof! There he was,
flat on a tuft of pillow-soft caribou moss poking through the melting snow.

ékwáni Cody ohpinam otéskana ékwa sipwé-nímihitow. ohpinam péyak
osit níkán, ékota ohci kotak. ékota ohci kotak, ékota ohci, oof! ékota ká-
cípatapit ita askiy apisís ká-nókwasik kónihk ohci.

“Ateek, ateek! Astum, astum!” Joe played and sang as Cody got up and
danced like a young caribou. They were so busy dancing and singing
and playing kitoochigan that they didn’t hear the rumbling.

“atihk, atihk! ástam, ástam!” ká-nikamot Joe ékwa Cody kihtwám ká-nípawit
ékwa ká-nímihitot tápiskóc acihkosis. iyikohk sohki é-nímihitocik ékwa
é-nikamocik ékwa é-kitócikécik namwác ahpo é-péhtákik anima kíkway
ká-péhtákwaniyik.

Mama and Papa were sitting hear the fire, drinking tea.
“Thunder?” Mama asked Papa. “In May?”
“Can’t be,” said Papa. “Not until summer.”
“Then what can it-” But Mama never finished her question.

mámá ékwa pápá kisiwahk kotawán é-kisákami-htihkécik.
“é-kitocik cí?” mámá ká-kakwécimát pápáwa.
“ékwa kéyápic é-síkwahk piko?”
“namwác étikwé,” ká-itwét pápá. “namóya céskwa nípin, wacistakác!”
“kíkway máka…” namwác máka mámá ahpo kaski-htáw ka-kís-ayimiht.

Faster than lightning, a thousand caribou burst from the forest.
Two thousand caribou ran between the cooking fire and the boys.
Ten thousand caribou filled the meadow like a lake.

hé, kéhtátawé mihcét atihkwak sisikoc ká-pimpahtácik.
nipahi mihcét atihkwak ká-pimpahtácik étoka mitoni táwáyihk kotawánihk ékwa
aniki níso nápésisak.
hé, é-nipahi-mihcéticik atihkwak.

Joe stood in the middle of the plunging caribou.
Through the tangle of their rushing legs and
antlers, he could see Cody, small as a doll,
sitting on the caribou moss.

Joe took one step, then another, as if swimming
through the snorting, steaming bodies, until he
reached his brother.

étoka ká-nípawit Joe mitoni táwáyihk ita ká-pim-
pahtácik atihkwak. étoka oskátiwáwa ékwa
otéskaniwáwa ká-wápamát Codywa, é-apisísisiyit
é-apiyit askíhk.

nisihkác ká-pimohtét Joe, tápiskóc atámihk nip-
ihk é-pimátawít, isko ká-otihtawát osímisa.

When he took Cody’s hand they seemed to float right through the herd. The next thing they knew they were perched on the big rock, Cody on Joe’s lap, kitoochigan between them. All they could see were antlers. And all they could hear were hooves, drumming all around them like thunder.

“Ateek, ateek! Astum, astum!”
Joe sang again. “Caribou, caribou!
Come, come!”

ékwa ispihk ká-otinák Cody ocihciyiwa tápiskóc é-isi-nísicik
nisihkác é-pimihácik. kéhtátawé étoka ká-cípatapicik tahkóc
mistasiníhk, Cody é-tahkótapit Joe oskáta, kitócikan táwáyihk
aniki níso nápésisak. otéskanak piko ká-wápamácik. atihk osita
mína piko ká-péhtátwáw, okitówak tápiskóc é-itéyi htákosiniyit.

“atihk, atihk! ástam, ástam!” ká-nikamot ékwa kihtwám Joe,
“atihk, atihk! ástam, ástam!”

And out of the drumming came the voice of the herd,
whispering and moaning and wailing as it flowed past the rock.
“Cody! Joe!” it said. “Come, come!” And the boys
opened their arms to embrace the spirit.

kéhtátawé ká-péhtákwáw kotak kíkway nápé-
sisak, tápiskóc awiyak kímóc é-ayimiyit pihcáyihk
asiníhk ohci.

“Cody! Joe!” ká-itwét ana awiyak. “ástam, ástam!”
piyis ka-ohpinákwáw ospitoniwáwa nápésisak,
tápiskóc ta-nátácik awiya.

When the river of caribou had become a trickle,
the brothers heard another wailing sound.
Mama’s face was buried in Papa’s parka.

“Woof, woof!” Ootsie danced around the great big rock.
“Ho-ho!” Papa sang out. But when Mama looked up at Papa’s
face, she didn’t see tears but a smile as bright as the sun.

ishpihk atihkwak ékwa awasimé ká-péhtákosicik, kotak kíkwaya
ékwa mína ká-péhtákwáw nápésisak.
omámáwáwa ékota ká-nípawiyit tápiskóc é-káták wihkwákan
onápéma oskotákayihk.

“woof! woof!” otisiy ká-papámi-kwáskohtit ékota kisiwahk
mistasiníhk.

“ho-ho!” ká-nikamot pápá. máka ispihk onápéma ká-kanawá-
památ mámá, namóya mátow pápá. pahpiw.

For there, atop the large rock, sat Joe and
Cody, laughing and laughing and laughing.

ayis ékota ká-cípatapicik tahkóc mistasiníhk
Joe ékwa Cody, é-pahpicik ékwa é-pahpicik,
ékwa é-pahpicik.

 

Glossary of Cree and English Keywords

Mush! Cha! U!: Are commands to the sled dogs. Meaning forward, turn right, turn left.

Kitoochigan: Accordion

Ateek, ateek! Astum, astum: Caribou, caribou, come, come

Bannock: Bannock is a simple bread, leavened with baking powder rather than yeast. It can be baked, fried in a pan or sometimes even deep-fried. It can be made from virtually any kind almost any kind of fat available (oil, lard, or bacon grease). Introduced by Europeans, it became a staple of many of the First Nations of North America.

Learn more about bannock here.

Whitefish: A fish with white meat - such as turbot, trout, bass. - all fish has omega3 fatty acid which is very good for health.

Antlers: They are bony structures on the top of the head. As they are growing, they are covered with a hair-like substance called Velvet. The Caribou shed their antlers and grow new ones every year. Unlike other species, both male and female grow antlers. When the antlers are full size, the bone dies and the velvet gets rubbed off.

Antlers vary in size, depending on the sub-species, the health of the animal and the diet they live on. Antler color depends partly on the amount of oxidized blood left over from velvet shedding and partly on a chemical reaction between the blood and sap from plants on which the antlers are rubbed.

Uses of Antlers: Males use antlers for fighting They are used to attract females for mating. They conduct sound, much like a hearing aid.

Moccasin: A Moccasin is a shoe made of deerskin or other soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top. The sole is soft and flexible and the upper part often is adorned with embroidery or beading.. Historically, it is the footwear of many Native American tribes; Etymologically, the moccasin derives from the Algonquian language Powhatan word makasin (cognate to Massachusett mohkisson / mokussin, Ojibwa makizin, Mi'kmaq m'kusun Cree asikin),

Caribou Moss: Caribou moss grows in arctic and northern regions around the world. It grows on the ground and on rocks. It looks like a foamy, gray-green spongy mass, and grows to be 1 to 4 inches high. The stems, or stocks, are hollow, and branch out many times. Although it is called caribou moss, it is actually lichen, a plant that is a combination of algae and fungi growing together. It is called caribou moss because it is a staple of the caribou. In fact caribou are one of the few animals that are able to digest lichen.

Learn more about caribou moss here.

Rumbling: The thunderous sound made by the herds of caribou, sometimes in the thousands, as they migrate across the tundra.

Click here to listen to the sound of a caribou bull.

Click here to watch a video of migrating caribou herd.