Through poems that move between the two languages, McIlwraith explores the beauty of the intersection between nêhiyawêwin, the Plains Cree language, and English, âkayâsîmowin. Written to honour her father's facility in nêhiyawêwin and her mother's beauty and generosity as an inheritor of Cree, Ojibwe, Scottish, and English, kiyâm articulates a powerful yearning for family, history, peace, and love.
About the author
NAOMI McILWRAITH is an educator, poet, and essayist, with a mixed Cree, Ojibwe, Scottish, and English inheritance. She currently works at Grant MacEwan University and has held instructional positions at the University of Alberta and The King's University College.
kiyâmThis book of poems had roots in McIlwraith’s Masters thesis, but is clearly an expression of love of both her family and Cree heritage. It is a record of language preservation as well as a personal narrative. McIlwraith’s Scottish father learned to speak Cree fluently, though her Métis mother did not. His death, shortly after she began to write, hastened awareness of the importance of preserving this Native language. While she is aware that in transcribing an oral language some essential meaning is lost, she understands that in preserving one’s culture, one must preserve the language, as language is culture. These poems are rich tapestries of cultural identity, traditional practices and family love, evoking the sights, smells, tastes of an earlier time on the prairie. The Cree words inserted into the poems provide rhythm, timbre and beauty, which provide a deeper layer of meaning. Th e work includes a pronunciation guide.
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2013-2014.