Swampy Cree Naming Poems

Missions
Dec 31, 1969
Image for issue at Youth Voices

Will you: 

Write two poems like those in Born Tying Knots: Swampy Cree Naming Stories. First, tell the story of your “Past Swampy Cree Indian Name.” Write a poem/story that explains why you might have been given this back THEN. After that, write a second poem to tell the story of your “Present Swampy Cree Indian Name.” What name would people who know you NOW give you at this time? Why?

Instructions for writing two poems about yourself, THEN (what you were like in the past) and NOW (what you are like now).

1. Write a “Story of My Name” narrative. Just put your whole name at the top of a piece of paper, and freewrite ANYTHING that comes to mind when you look at your name. You might write stories about times when someone used or abused your name, notions about where your name comes from, who named you. Really allow yourself to go off in any direction your mind or heart takes you!

2. Read your writing aloud it to a partner (or partners) who will “Active Listen” to you. Your partner(s) should act as mirrors, telling you what they have heard in your writing.

3. Read these three poems, and talk with a teacher or a peer about what they mean. Discuss how Swampy Cree Indians don’t name a child when he or she is born. Instead the community waits until that child does something unique or special, and then gives him or her a name to represent that habit or that event. Read the annotations on these poems and add your own at Genius.
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Samuel Makidemewabe (Author), Howard Norman (Translator). Three Poems from Born Tying Knots: Swampy Cree Naming Stories. Bear Claw Press; First Edition edition (1976).
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Naming Poem 1: Read this poem and the annotations, then add your own annotations at Genius.

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Born Tying Knots

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Naming Poem 2: Read this poem and the annotations, then add your own annotations at Genius.

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Rain Straight Down

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Naming Poem 3: Read this poem and the annotations, then add your own annotations at Genius.

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Quiet Until The Thaw

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4. THEN POEM: Make up a Swampy Cree Indian name for yourself the way you were in the past, in your native country or in the neighborhood, city or state where you grew up. What name would people who knew you then have given you at that time? Make it a name that includes an action word (like “Dances with Wolves”). The name should “tell how it was with you” in your native country… in your life… in the past. It should show what you were like, what you liked to do, or something important that happened to you in the past.

5. Put your “Past Swampy Cree Indian Name” at the top of a piece of paper, then write a story that explains why you might have been given this name. Tell what it was that happened to you. Use a story to show why you might have been given this name in the past. BE SURE TO TELL THE STORY IN THIRD PERSON, USING “HE” OR “SHE” TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF.

6. Turn your story about your “Past Swampy Cree Indian Name” into a poem like the ones above.

7. NOW POEM: Next, make up another name – a “Present Swampy Cree Indian Name.” What name would people who know you NOW give you at this time? Make it a name that includes an action word (like “Dances with Wolves”). The name should “tell how it is with you” in this city or town where you are living now… in your life… in the present. It should show what you are like, what you like to do, or something important that has happened to you recently. Take a break, give yourself some time to think. When you are ready: write a story, then a poem for this name. BE SURE TO TELL THE STORY IN THIRD PERSON, USING “HE” OR “SHE” TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF.

8. Post both poems on Youth Voices as a single discussion.