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Social Science Native American Studies

mitoni niya nêhiyaw / Cree is Who I Truly Am

nêhiyaw-iskwêw mitoni niya / Me, I am Truly a Cree Woman

as told by Sarah Whitecalf

edited and translated by H.C. Wolfart & Freda Ahenakew

preface by Ted Whitecalf

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Native American Studies, Native Americans, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
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Strong women dominate these reminiscences: the grandmother taught the girl whose mother refused to let her go to school, and the life-changing events they witnessed range from the ravages of the influenza epidemic of 1918–20 and murder committed in a jealous rage to the abduction of a young woman by underground spirits who on her release grant her healing powers.

A highly personal document, these memoirs are altogether exceptional in recounting the thoughts and feelings of a Cree woman as she copes with the challenges of reserve life but also, in a key chapter, with her loneliness while tending a relative’s children in a place far away from home – and, apparently just as debilitating, away from the company of other women. Her experiences and reactions throw fresh light on the lives lived by Plains Cree women on the Canadian prairies over much of the twentieth century.

The late Sarah Whitecalf (1919–1991) spoke Cree exclusively, spending most of her life at Nakiwacîhk / Sweetgrass Reserve on the North Saskatchewan River. This is where Leonard Bloomfield was told his Sacred Stories of the Sweet Grass Cree in 1925 and where a decade later David Mandelbaum apprenticed himself to Kâ-miyokîsihkwêw / Fineday, the step-grandfather in whose family Sarah Whitecalf grew up.

In presenting a Cree woman’s view of her world, the texts in this volume directly reflect the spoken word: Sarah Whitecalf’s memoirs are here printed in Cree exactly as she recorded them, with a close English translation on the facing page. They constitute an autobiography of great personal authority and rare authenticity.

About the authors

Sarah Whitecalf (1919–1991) spoke Cree exclusively, spending most of her life at Nakiwacîhk/ Sweetgrass Reserve on the North Saskatchwan River. Her lectures are collected in The Cree Language is Our Identity.


Sarah Whitecalf's profile page

H.C. Wolfart is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Manitoba.


H.C. Wolfart's profile page

Freda Ahenakew (1932-2011), founding Director of the Saskatchewan Indian Languages Institute, earned her M.A. in Cree linguistics at the University of Manitoba. Ahenakew received an honorary LLD from the University of Saskatchewan (1997) and was named to the World Indigenous Education Task Force; she also received the Citizen of the Year Award from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (1992), the Order of Canada (1998), and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award (2001). 


Freda Ahenakew's profile page

Ted Whitecalf is Sarah Whitecalf’s son and a professional photographer. His Sweet Grass Records/Productions in Saskatoon has been publishing recordings of Indigenous music and photographic books for over twenty-five years.


Ted Whitecalf's profile page

Other titles by H.C. Wolfart

Other titles by Freda Ahenakew