Voices of the Plains Cree

Front Cover
Edward Ahenakew (1885-1961), a "second generation" reserve Cree, was a university graduate, Anglican minister, and director of mission work in Saskatchewan. He recorded Cree traditions and stories and sought to set down the feelings of Indians at a pivotal moment in history. This book has two parts. Part I presents stories of Chief Thunderchild (Kapitikow), recorded in 1923. Thunderchild is known for resisting Treaty 6 of 1876, insisting on one school for every reserve. An introduction to the stories describes the role of old men as advisors and repositories of history, traditions, and knowledge. Thunderchild's stories and remembrances tell of a hard winter, Indian laws, war with the Blackfoot, truce-making and truce-breaking, buffalo hunts, wanton slaughter of buffalos to get hides for trade, encounters with grizzly bears, a faithless woman, the first man, the Sun Dance, prayers for rain, and Thunderchild's admonition that his people prepare for a long and difficult journey of survival. In part II, Ahenakew created a fictional character, "Old Keyam," to interpret the outlook of Indians who had reached a certain stage in acquiring "Canadian civilization.""Keyam" means "What does it matter?" or "I do not care!" and so expresses the attitude of many Indians bewildered in the maze of change and hiding their keen sense of defeat under the assumed demeanor of "keyam!" The voice of Ahenakew, Old Keyam tells of reservation life in the early 20th century, reflecting on Cree legends, the shift from hunting to farming, freedom and Indian resistance to White domination, Christian intolerance toward Indian religious beliefs and practices, the role of women, the need for education, deficiencies of boarding schools, Indian versus Canadian law, and the right to vote. Includes photographs and the text of the Treaty (Number Six) signed at Forts Carlton and Pitt. (SV).


Introduction to the 1973 Edition
A Winter of Hardship
Encounter With the Blackfoot in the Eagle Hills
Thunderchilds Adventure With the Bear
Account of the Signing of Treaty Number Six

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