"An Inner Strength"
By the second week after his assault,
Kenzie had recovered enough that he
could do most of his normal activities,
although not necessarily as far or long
as he used to. He was still regaining
his stamina, and his healing back gave
him warning twinges if he pushed it.
Blair and Kenzie were clearing the table
after lunch when the phone rang.
Ida answered it, listened for a moment,
and then a scowl clouded her face.
"Uh oh," Blair muttered.
Kenzie wondered what
was wrong, but he didn't
want to get in the way, so
he just tucked the dishes
against his chest and
headed for the sink.
"I'll take care of this,"
Ida said, and hung up.
"What's going on, Mama?"
Blair asked as she swiped
a cloth across the table.
"Many Tongues is upset
because some of the grandkids
knocked over a bookcase at
his place, and it would take
a long time for him to fix up
the room like it was," Ida said.
"I told him we'd help, of course."
"What do you want us to do?"
Blair said, hanging the cloth
over a bar in the kitchen.
"Blair, Ron, Kenzie -- you three
get over there and help Many Tongues
put his place back in order," Ida said.
"Yes, ma'am," Kenzie said crisply.
"Mick, you go round up those little yahoos
and bring them here so I can deal with them,"
Ida said. "I will teach them a lesson."
"She won't hit them?" Kenzie whispered
to Blair, casting a worried glance over
his shoulder. Ida had been gentle
with him, but she looked really mad.
"Of course not," Blair said. "Kenzie,
she means literally give them a lesson
about how we treat people, about manners."
"Oh. Okay," Kenzie said. "That's good."
So Blair, Ron, and Kenzie squeezed into
the old red pickup truck while Mick
took the RV to round up the kids.
Kenzie watched the scenery
roll past the windows as they drove
through low, rolling hills of green and gold.
The roundhouse looked like half a peach
plopped on the ground, with doors and windows
cut into its sides. A wide smooth path wrapped
around it, bordered by tall native grasses.
Beyond it lay a blue-and-red workshed
and a line of bushes rising into trees.
When they went inside, the great room
was a bit messy with toys all over the floor,
but the swearing -- in several languages
none of which Kenzie really knew, but it
sounded like swearing -- came from
the open door of the small den.
Inside that was chaos.
Someone had knocked over
one of the tall wooden bookcases,
spilling books all over the floor.
Two of the little tables lay on
their sides, knickknacks everywhere.
Five small children had been herded
over to the far side of the room, where
they sat against the wall, looking guilty.
Many Tongues was leaning over
the arm of his wheelchair, trying
to pick up the scattered books.
At least he wasn't trying to put
the bookcase back in its place.
"Wow, what happened here?"
Kenzie said, staring at the mess.
"Samoset happened," Many Tongues said,
and pointed at a preschool boy who wore
a t-shirt that read, Mommy's Superhero.
"He runs like a deer, but he can't control
it very well yet. He gets the other kids
all wound up too, and I can't chase him
to sit his tail down. So this happened."
"Kenzie, pick up the books and
hand them to Many Tongues,"
said Blair. "Ron and I will put
the bookcase where it belongs."
"Okay," Kenzie said, hurrying to obey.
Meanwhile Mick collected the kids
and shooed them out of the house.
Kenzie scooped up the books,
trying to keep them in stacks that
looked like they belonged together.
"Thank you," Many Tongues murmured.
"I really appreciate all of your help."
"No problem," Kenzie said, then
felt something metal under his hand.
"How come this one's locked?"
"That's from the top shelf,"
said Many Tongues. "Years ago,
windtalkers hit upon something
by accident that we still haven't
figured out entirely. I'm helping
to work on that project now."
"Wow," Kenzie said. "That
sounds incredibly exciting."
"It is. It's also somewhat risky,"
Many Tongues said, tilting his head
in a birdlike gesture, his bright eyes
watching Kenzie closely. "Words
have power, and with magic
they really have power."
something that Pretty Ears
had said when they discussed
what had happened with Mick.
"Talking medicine breaks
one of two ways, the shaman
everyone wants advising them,
and the trickster we can't invite
to leave fast enough," she'd said.
"Sometimes both, if you're a raven."
Kenzie looked at Many Tongues as
the older man handled the locked book,
fingers curling protectively around it
like a crow clutching a shiny stone.
Yeah, Many Tongues might be both.
Kenzie went back to picking up
the mess on the floor. Then he
noticed little rolls of what looked
like leather amongst the books.
"Hey, what are these things?"
"They are story hides, practice ones,"
said Many Tongues. "Young children
paint on paper. Older children paint on
leather. Tweens and teens tan the hides
for their little siblings to use." He unrolled
one and showed Kenzie a spiral of symbols.
"A story hide can tell about a great hunt,
or it can be a calendar of many winters."
"That's really cool," Kenzie said.
"I think I've seen something like that
when I went on a field trip to a museum."
"Our histories do not belong in museums,"
Many Tongues grumbled. "They belong
here, in the homes of our elders."
"Yeah, I can see how that would be
a sore spot," Kenzie said. As he gathered
more rolls, one unrolled, showing lines
of script with loops and triangles.
"What in the world is this stuff?"
"nēhiyawēwin, or Plains Cree,"
said Many Tongues. "That is one of
our languages. Blair knows it too."
"Yeah, I learned it as an adult,
though," Blair said as she and Ron
set the fallen bookcase upright.
"My parents know a different dialect."
"It must be nice," Kenzie said.
Several of the hides had come
undone, and Many Tongues was
re-rolling them with fussy gestures.
"kíyaté-mana kahkiyaw kikway
ni-kí-kistéyihtamak … ékwa óma
anohc namowiya ékohsi itócikatwéw,
ékoci óma éyakohk ésa ká-wanisiniyak."
"Uh, what did you just say?" Kenzie asked,
wondering if he should just leave
the older man alone, but no,
Ida had sent him to help.
"I said: In the old days we
used to respect everything …
This isn’t done today, that’s why
we are lost," Many Tongues translated.
Kenzie looked around at the wreck
of the room and nodded understanding.
"Sock talk mini witch talk?" he tried.
Many Tongues burst out laughing,
then said, "I think you mean:
sákihitók mina wicíhitók."
"Yeah, that," Kenzie agreed. "Ida
says it a lot when we're helping her with
housework." He waved at the mess.
"I thought it fit. What's it mean?"
"Love one another and help
one another," Many Tongues said.
"Oh," Kenzie said. "I like that."
"Do you now," the older man murmured.
"Would you like to learn more about it?"
Kenzie looked down at the loose roll
of leather in his hand. "Could I?
This is your thing, really, and
I'm ... just a guest here."
"No, no, we don't ask guests
to come and clean house!"
Many Tongues exclaimed.
"It's what we do with family."
"Be patient with him, he's new
to this," Blair told Many Tongues.
"Ah, yes," said Many Tongues. "Kenzie,
a language only lives if people speak it.
In the old days, sometimes we adopted
people who came to our tribe, if their hearts
were good. So if you want to learn about
Plains Cree, I'll be happy to teach you."
"Didn't you say that you wanted
earn your way in?" Blair said.
"Yeah, I did," Kenzie said.
"Well, you need 200 points for that,"
Blair said. "Studying the language can
earn you 10 points per level of fluency,
up to 50. That's a quarter of the total."
"Living on the reservation gets you
another 10 points per year," Ron added.
"In five years, you could halfway there."
"Don't forget the impromptu sun dance
on top of his superpowers," Blair said.
"He could be done in five years."
"That would be great," Kenzie said as he
handed Many Tongues another book. "I'm glad
that people are keeping the language alive like this."
mina ká-kístéyimotín ki-t-aniskomakíwin,"
said Many Tongues replied, patting Kenzie
on the hand. "Knowing your language gives you
an inner strength and pride in your heritage."
It wasn't Kenzie's heritage by blood,
but then, his blood relatives had
never cared much for him.
He looked at the roundhouse,
which he'd heard the tribe had
built for Many Tongues after
he came home from the army
in need of a wheelchair.
He watched Blair and Ron
gently replacing books on
the high shelves where
Many Tongues told them.
A faint twinge in his back
reminded Kenzie of the care
they had given him, and that
he should probably look for
a stopping point soon.
Kenzie would much rather
throw in his lot with these people
than the ones he'd been born to.
"I'd be honored to be a part
of that," he said softly.
"Blair, find us a copy of
mâci-nêhiyawêwin, that means
Beginning Cree," said Many Tongues.
"Ron, pick some easy stories so Kenzie
has something to practice reading."
Blair found the textbook first
and passed it to Many Tongues.
"I've got Little Bear's Day and
Little Bear Is New in Town, both
in English and Plains Cree," Ron said,
adding them to the growing stack.
"Start with these," Many Tongues said
as he gave the books to Kenzie. "You can
sit in on language lessons or storytelling --
a lot of elders do those, just watch for them."
"Thank you," said Kenzie. "I'll do that.
"óma ka-píkiskwéyák ta-kí kistéyihtomowak
mina ta-kí-tapwéyak, éyako áyamiwin mitoni
mamáhtáwisíhcikéwin óma ki-mámawóhtawímawánaw
ékwa mina ka-miyo-aniskowinimak pimatisiwiwina,"
Many Tongues said, patting him on the hand.
"That's beautiful, but I have no idea
what you just said," Kenzie admitted.
"Be truthful and respectful in our speech,
which in itself is a miracle and a gift from
the Creator, that we might use it only
to speak good of each other and pass on
the good things of life," Many Tongues said.
"I'll do my best," Kenzie promised, tucking
the precious bundle underneath his arm.
When he bent down to pick up
the last book on the floor, though,
his back cramped unpleasantly.
Straightening up, Kenzie passed it
to Many Tongues, then tried to rub
the ache out of his scarred back.
"Overdid it a bit?" Ron said,
laying his warm hands
over the sore spot.
"Yeah," Kenzie said,
leaning into the touch.
"Then let's get you home,"
Ron said. "You can lie down
for a while, and I'll rub your back
with that blue chamomile oil."
"That sounds so good," Kenzie said,
then remembered why they were there.
"The room isn't finished, though --"
"Don't worry about it," said Many Tongues.
"You folks picked up most of it already.
I can finish the rest, and put the books
back in the right order by tomorrow."
"Then yeah, let's go home,"
Kenzie said, trying not to treat
Ron as a walking crutch.
Blair looped an arm around him
from the other side, though, and
between her and Ron they got Kenzie
to the truck without too much trouble.
He fell asleep on the way home.
That was okay, because
Blair woke him up as Ron
pulled into the driveway,
and both of them helped
Kenzie out of the truck.
A row of preschoolers
were industriously scrubbing
the sidewalk with brushes.
The older boy called out something
that Kenzie couldn't understand, probably
in Plains Cree, maybe in Chippewa.
"The shadow is touching the stone,"
Mick said. "You are done with this chore.
Now go inside and talk with your grandmother.
She will help you think of something you can
do for Many Tongues to show him that you
are sorry for making a mess of his home."
The children scrambled to their feet
and scampered into the roundhouse.
Draped between Blair and Ron,
Kenzie followed at a slower pace.
"Wore yourself out?" Ida asked
as she saw Kenzie come inside.
"Go lie down, I'll have my hands
full with these scamps for a while."
Kenzie paused only long enough
to visit the bathroom, then went
to his room and lay on the bed.
Blair helped him out of his clothes,
folding them neatly to set aside.
Ron warmed the lotion in his hands,
then smoothed it over Kenzie's back.
Kenzie gave a deep sigh of relief.
"Don't worry about falling asleep,"
Ron said. "Nap if you can. We'll
wake you so you don't miss supper."
"Mmmhmm," Kenzie said, enjoying
the long slow strokes on his back.
Blair began singing, and it made
Kenzie feel that maybe he could find
an inner strength in this language.
He let that thought lull him to sleep.
* * *
Many Tongues (Theoren "Theo" Greyeyes) -- He has fair skin, gray eyes, and dark hair trimmed into a short mohawk. His heritage includes Cree, Chippewa, and British. He wears glasses. Many Tongues is a disabled Army veteran, paralyzed from the waist down, who uses a wheelchair. Because of this, he needs help with some everyday tasks.
Many Tongues works at the Rocky Boy's Early Headstart language immersion program. He speaks A'ananin (Gros Ventre), Dakota (Sioux), English, French, Lipan Apache, Nakoda (Assiniboine), Nēhiyawēwin ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ or Plains Cree, Ojibwemowin (Chippewa or Ojibwa), Oji-Cree (another dialect of Ojibwa), Plains Indian Sign, Salish, and Siksika (Blackfeet). He is currently struggling to learn Diné (Navajo). He has chosen a mix of widely-spoken tribal languages and very rare ones.
Qualities: Master (+6) Tribal Languages, Expert (+4) Âniskô-kiskinwahamâkêwin, Good (+2) Army Veteran, Good (+2) Dark Humor, Good (+2) Endurance
Poor (-2) Activities of Daily Living
Âniskô-kiskinwahamâkêwin means passing on teachings.
Etchemin Hunt -- He has copper skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He is tall and broad with a squarish face. He wears glasses. He is the husband of Nuna and father of Kitchi (son, 8), Huritt (son, 6), Kanti (daughter, 4), Samoset (son, 3), Tihkoosue (son, 2), and Mukki (son, 4 months). His family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Etchemin builds canoes and other boats for a living.
Qualities: Good (+2) Canoe Maker, Good (+2) Father, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Nikwatisiwin, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Afraid of Fire
4. Sharing and Generosity – nikwatisiwin êkwa mâtinamâkêwin – ᓂᑲᐧᑎᓯᐃᐧᐣ ᐁᑲᐧ ᒫᑎᓇᒫᑫᐃᐧᐣ
-- Cree Cultural Teachings
Kitchi Hunt -- He has copper skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He is the grandson of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, son of Etchemin and Nuna Hunt, nephew of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, older brother of Huritt, Kanti, Samoset, Tihkoosue, and Mukki. His family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Kitchi is currently 8 years old. He loves to read, but often gets so absorbed in what he's doing that he forgets to pay attention to what's happening around him.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bookworm, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Endurance
Poor (-2) Situational Awareness
Nuna Hunt -- She has light copper skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair usually worn in a braid. She is the daughter of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, older sister of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, mother of Kitchi (son, 8), Huritt (son, 6), Kanti (daughter, 4), Samoset (son, 3), Tihkoosue (son, 2), and Mukki (son, 4 months). Her family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. She teaches preschool.
Origin: Her superpowers grew in gradually.
Uniform: Comfortable women's clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Kisêwâtisiwin, Good (+2) Mother, Good (+2) Sleep Through Anything, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Overweight
Powers: Average (0) Earthsense
Motivation: To take care of her family.
6. Kindness – kisêwâtisiwin – ᑭᓭᐋᐧᑎᓯᐃᐧᐣ
-- Cree Cultural Teachings
Samoset Hunt -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and light brown hair cut short. He is the grandson of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, son of Etchemin and Nuna Hunt, nephew of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, younger brother of Kitchi, Huritt, Kanti, older brother of Tihkoosue and Mukki. His family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Samoset is currently 3 years old. Fast and curious, he is all but impossible to contain and constantly gets into things. He is just as happy to pick up a mess as to make one, though.
Origin: His superpowers manifested when he learned to walk.
Uniform: Play clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Curiosity, Good (+2) Helpful
Poor (-2) Easily Bored
Powers: Average (0) Super-Speed
Motivation: Run and find out!
Tihkoosue "Tick" Hunt -- He has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and light brown hair cut short. He is the grandson of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, son of Etchemin and Nuna Hunt, nephew of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, younger brother of Kitchi, Huritt, Kanti, Samoset, older brother of Mukki. His family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Tihkoosue is currently 2 years old. He is patient and watchful, but typically clings to his mother rather than exploring. It gives him the nickname Tick. Sometimes their parents put him on a blanket with Mukki, and the two of them will just stay there.
Qualities: Good (+2) Patient
Poor (-2) Clingy
Kanti Hunt -- She has light copper skin, brown eyes, and wavy brown hair that she's trying to grow out with little success. She is the granddaughter of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, daughter of Etchemin and Nuna Hunt, niece of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, younger sister of Kitchi, Huritt, older sister of Samoset, Tihkoosue, and Mukki. Her family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Kanti is currently 4 years old. She enjoys crafts and has a sweet voice when singing. She feels a little left out as the only girl with five brothers, but she gets indulged more, too.
Qualities: Good (+2) Crafts, Good (+2) Singer
Poor (-2) Hair Won't Grow Fast Enough
Huritt Hunt -- He has light copper skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He wears glasses. He is the grandson of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, son of Etchemin and Nuna Hunt, nephew of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, younger brother of Kitchi, older brother of Kanti, Samoset, Tihkoosue, and Mukki. His family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Huritt is currently 6 years old. He has his mother's loving touch with people, but little grasp of math or logic. He is very attached to his brother Mukki and enjoys holding the baby in his lap.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Nurturing
Poor (-2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
Mukki Hunt -- He has light light copper skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He is the grandson of Ida and Tomson Starblanket, son of Etchemin and Nuna Hunt, nephew of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways, younger brother of Kitchi, Huritt, Kanti, Samoset, and Tihkoosue. His family lives on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Mukki is currently 4 months old. Fascinated by everything around him, he rarely fusses as long as he can see what's going on. If left alone, though, he squalls until someone picks him up. If he falls asleep that way, he wakes up, can't see anyone, and starts crying again. His relatives pretty much wear him all the time to keep him happy and quiet. Aside from his parents, Mukki is most attached to his older brother Huritt.
Qualities: Good (+2) Observant
Poor (-2) Being Left Alone
* * *
Freda Ahenakew, Muskeg Lake First Nation
Knowing your language gives you an inner strength and pride in your heritage.
"ki-ká-nihta-néhiyawihinin ki-ká-sohki-téhiyan mina ká-kístéyimotín ki-t-aniskomakíwin."
Isiah Bear, Muskoday First Nation
In the old days we used to respect everything… This isn’t done today, that’s why we are lost.
"kíyaté-mana kahkiyaw kikway ni-kí-kistéyihtamak… ékwa óma anohc namowiya ékohsi itócikatwéw, ékoci óma éyakohk ésa ká-wanisiniyak."
Love one another and help one another.
"sákihitók mina wicíhitók."
Be truthful and respectful in our speech, which in itself is a miracle and a gift from the Creator, that we might use it only to speak good of each other and pass on the good things of life.
"óma ka-píkiskwéyák ta-kí kistéyihtomowak mina ta-kí-tapwéyak, éyako áyamiwin mitoni mamáhtáwisíhcikéwin óma ki-mámawóhtawímawánaw ká-kí-miyo-miyikowak, ka-tahkaki- píkiskwatówák ékwa mina ka-miyo-aniskowinimak pimatisiwiwina."
This is the Starblanket family pickup truck.
Many Tongues lives in a roundhouse designed to accommodate a wide range of disabilities. See the floor plan. The laundry room has a sink with kneespace, a washer and dryer, and a shower for washing dogs, equipment, or other things. Bright colors break up spaces, making it easier to identify doors and corners. Smooth concrete floors and 36" wide hallways allow comfortable travel by wheelchair. The 9' tall ceilings make the halls look narrower, though. Flat, high-contrast thresholds mark transitions without creating barriers. This is the door from the common bathroom into the hallway. The common bathroom has a bathtub, toilet, and sink. The bunkroom has four built-in beds for visiting children. The guest bedroom has one full-size bed. The built-in storage along the outer walls was a project done by a teen cousin to practice woodworking. The great room includes kitchen, dining room, and living room areas along with a roll-in exercise center and a desk without a chair. Contrasting colors of wall and trim, doors, switch plates, electrical outlets, etc. make it easy to see the different parts of the house. Lever door handles and rocker switches are comfortable to use, positioned about 30" above the floor for convenient reach. The study holds many books for all ages along with tables, chairs, and a pit group. Indoor-outdoor carpet in the master bedroom cushions the concrete floor without catching on wheels. The closet in the master bedroom has plenty of low storage as well as high storage. Many Tongues rotates his clothes seasonally, storing off-season items up high and current ones within easy reach. Friends and family help him move the clothes every few months. The master bathroom includes a sink, shower, and toilet. The roll-in shower has a fixed showerhead and rainshower visible here, and inside the wall to the left, it also has a showerhead on a hose above a built-in bench. Grab bars are on the walls near the bench, not visible from this angle.
Intentional neighboring balances everyone's strengths and weaknesses.
Windtalkers is a tribal term for codetalkers.
Story hides record history. They use picture writing to tell a story. See some pictures with people and nature. They can be rolled for storage. Here are a student worksheet and a teacher guide for a lesson about them. Browse some more lessons.
Note: Plains Cree tends not to use capital letters, so I stuck with lowercase letters in this poem. Here are some books.
mâci-nêhiyawêwin / Beginning Cree
Little Cree Books has a number of titles for young children and other language learners. These are available variously in English and Plains Cree. They also have some basic lessons.
Little Bear's Day
Little Bear Is New In Town
You can tell time without a clock. To make a timer with shadows, set up your gnomen, mark the current position of the shadow with a rock, and place a second rock a short distance sunwise (clockwise) from the first one. With practice you can learn to estimate how fast the sun will travel.
A meaningful apology consists of several parts. Understand how to apologize. Teaching kids to apologize is a part of parenting, but not everyone learns it. Forcing people to apologize just teaches lying and manipulation; instead, encourage them to express their feelings and offer practical recompense. A reduced penalty is another incentive for sincere apology.
Positive discipline includes the premise that "discipline teaches, punishment hurts." There are tips and techniques for positive discipline, some of which work fine at all ages. Tribal cultures traditionally practice similar methods.