Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 70 > Page 12 - A Selection from Song of Rita Joe, Autobiography of a Mi'Kmaq Poet

Page 12 - A Selection from Song of Rita Joe, Autobiography of a Mi'Kmaq Poet

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1996/6/1 (452 reads)

somebody told me something interesting, I would keep it in my mind and jot it down as soon as I could and store it away. Then, when it was time to write, I would sit down and scribble a page or two. I wrote in pen • I didn't have a typewriter • but I would write as clearly as I could so that the editor could read it. We named the column "Here and There in Eskasoni." My children knew about my writing and were interested; I greatly appreciat? ed their efforts. I remember Junior, when he was about fifteen, trying to help me in my early snatches of writing. He would tell me about the traditional stories he had learnt; the traditional part of his life has always been important to him. A lot of the stories were about traditional ways and medicine. I would talk to the elderly people and they would tell me what they knew. Mrs. Annie Cremo was one elder I would often go to for stories and advice, along with her sisters Harriet Denny and Helen Cabot. They would tell me their stories in Mi'kmaq and, because of them, I started to use Native words in my little column every month. Jiktek All is still. Silence reigns. Tepknuset The moon A month Nemi'k I see. So long ago. Nmis My sister. Maja'sit She go. NmiSy my sistCT Nutaq, I hear Wena, who? Nekm, her, him, them. So long ago. Api, a bow Teken, which? Ji'nm nemi'k Man I see. Kwitn, a canoe App kinu 'tmui, teach me again Lnui'simk, Indian talk. So long ago. I remember one story I wrote was about a Native medicine called "kikwesu 'sk (muskrat root)." I had heard it was good for colds. I fermented it and used it on myself, and it cured my cold, so I felt like I was an expert on the medicine. I set myself to finding out more about it, but I didn't know its English name. I asked different people • 'many elderly people • 'if they knew the name in English, but nobody did. I remember that Lee Cremo, the champion fidder, came into the room when I was asking people about this, and he told me to just use Mi'kmaq names. So I wrote my column about the medicine and spelled the word the way it sounds in Mi'kmaq. The medicine works like this: You gather it during the summer and string it up to dry, and when it dries, you grind it and put it in a glass of water with a little honey. Then you drink it, and you sweat out your cold. When I took the medicine myself dumg a bad cold, I swallowed it just before going to bed. In the night I would wake up and my nightgown would be wet with the sweat. Sometimes I'd have to get up and change into anoth? er nightgown. I explained all this in my column and went on to say that I didn't know the English name of the medicine, but that it sounded like "kikwesu 'sk." Since "kikwesu" means "muskrat," I concluded the medicine must be muskrat root. I got a lot of mail about that column, from Alberta, from PEI, from all across the country. Even non-Natives wrote in, because they were in? terested in the name of the medicine. It turned out that it was flagroot in English, and a lot of people wrote to tell me that I had mispronounced the Mi'kmaq name. When my husband saw the feedback, he said, "You'd better make sure you know your facts when you're writing about something." "Well," I said, "at least I got a lot of feedback." This is what I tried to do with the column • everything that I learned, I would write down and discuss. Many people wrote back to me. It made me feel like I was accomplishing something.... featuring the hit singles Sleepy Maggie Devil In The Kitchen hi • how are you today?... fine? thank you very much Ashley Maclsaac returns to his roots with the brand new traditionai aibum fine? thanii you very much "What a character, what a musician, what a player!... I his boy has a huge future ahead of hlni." Paddy' Moloney I he Chieftains ''-'affi; iw are you today? || 12
Cape Breton's Magazine
  View this article in PDF format Print article

Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to the PDF version of this content. Click here to download and install the Acrobat plugin
Acrobat Reader Download