ndi gindaaso ‘gaawiin mawisiiwag anishnaabeg’ noongom / I’m reading, ‘Indians Don’t Cry’ today

ndi gindaaso – a haiku poem

ndi gindaaso

dbaajmowin, gishpin

eta nsitamwaad


i’m reading – a haiku poem
i’m reading
stories, if
only i understand what it is
Published by University of Manitoba Press Originally in 1977 | Translated into Anishnaabemowin 2014 by same press

i have a great appreciation for stories, legends, and historical accounts that have been translated from anishnaabemowin to english. at times, i find it difficult because the first translators were using an older way of speaking english, which is more formal than it’s use today. when i read the translations, it reflects this colonial way of thinking and understanding life, and the world around them. the colonial way of thinking is to separate one’s self from the natural world and to place one’s self in a hierarchal way where humans are on top of the pyramid. whereas, anishnaabemowin is from a more ancient time that reflects how ancestral anishnaabe people understood life and their place in the natural world. anishnaabe people still believe that humans depend on the natural world for survival. life is truly interdependent. from this place, i feel a real sense of loss of this way of life and understanding of a more natural state of being in this world. however, i find these translations important for understanding and unravelling the archived stories.

so what about indigenous english literature being translated into an indigenous language? now, this is more interesting. modern anishnaabe people live between two worlds. we live in a modern world using new technologies and embracing higher education, and have homes in the city. there’s a separation from the ancient anishnaabe ways and a disconnect of our ancestral languages. how we talk about things now or talk to one another is not how we would have long ago. for instance in Indians Don’t Cry the translator, Ningewance, talks about the way Kenny writes about a woman having slim arms and how in anishnaabemowin it wouldn’t translate the same way as he intended in his poem. being skinny was seen as a problem because it signified hunger and lack of food. and on the other hand being called fat was a good thing because you and your family were seen as successful hunters and providers. (see excerpt below)

i’m reminded that life was hard back in the day not like now. perhaps these translations need to be researched more to re-discover this way of life and understanding. this gives me fuel to keep learning and that i will have to challenge myself.

from Translation Note by Patricia M. Ningewance | x Indians Don’t Cry

 keep writing! keep learning! keep reading poetry 🙂