iskwêwak: Women



“Facelifted” with thanks to Tyrone Tootoosis (For those learning SRO, equivalents appear in brackets):

The Plains Cree word for Fire is “Iskotew”(iskotêw). The “otawew” (otêh ‘heart’) of our lodges/tipis is always the iskotew, as without fire, we would not have survived. As such, fire is seen and understood as “pimatisowin” (pimâtisiwin ‘life’). The keeper of the lodge fire is iskwew (iskwêw ‘woman’). Iskwewak (iskwêwakplural) are the givers of life which is why the second root word in iskotew comes from the Cree word for heart. “Kaytayak” (kêhtê-ayak ‘elders’) say that the heart and strength of the Nations comes from our women and the initial thread of this power is transferred in infancy during the time when a child is breastfed. Half of the woman’s spiritual power, her strong physical health, her courage, her kindness etc. is passed on to the child during this time. Kaytayak say that there is nothing so strong as this gentleness because there is nothing more gentle than this real strength.

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, a not-for-profit in its seventh year of gathering and curating Cree language literacy materials on the web and creating connections between students, teachers, speakers and linguists across the Cree dialect-and-language continuum.
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