Human language

Coffee with Warren: Squirrel’s “rich” father

A rumor has recently been circulating in Morley that I have become very “rich” through my 57 years of association with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

A rumor has recently been circulating in Morley that I have become very “rich” through my 57 years of association with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. Well, the source of this rumor doesn’t realize how true that is – except it’s not about being financially rich, but to be rich in what it means to be truly human according to the wisdom of Stoney Nakoda.

This came to mind during our family Thanksgiving dinner with our eldest son Reg, his daughter Naomi, and his five-year-old son, Peregrine (“Pip”).

Pip developed a passionate love for books, thanks to the inspiration of his mother. While waiting for dinner to be served, he came across one of my books on the Stoney Nakoda language. It was this delightful 2019 primer from Stoney Nakoda language revitalization specialist, Trent Fox (designs by Tanisha Wesley).

True to his curious nature, Pip climbed onto the sofa next to me and asked me to read it to him. Well, how could I resist, especially with such a family memory waiting for us just a few pages away.

When we got to the letter J, Trent had illustrated it with the Stoney Nakoda word for “squirrel”: Thija (pronounced you-JAH). What a perfect opportunity to leave Pip in the story behind how his Grampa Reg got his Stoney name.

It was the winter-spring of 1966, about six months after Mary Anna and I had arrived in Morley to help with linguistics and Bible translation. The globetrotting chef Walking Buffalo (Tataga Mani) had become a frequent dinner guest. On more than one occasion he had observed how our son Reg, then 16 months old, was a very energetic toddler. And true to his culture, the legendary chef gave it a Stoney Nakoda name: Thija. Yes, Reg was as active as a squirrel – interestingly, it’s not at all different from what his grandson Pip would become all these years later.

This moment with Pip led to a conversation with the rest of the family about the blessings that have been ours throughout our lives associated with the Stoney Nakoda community. It’s true, because I helped Trent teach university language lessons, some at Morley misunderstood my motives and accused me of enriching myself through my association with the community.

Rich? Absolutely – but not financially! From our association with Stoney Nakoda Elders, we have been blessed with one of the greatest riches one could hope for: the wealth of wisdom in Stoney Nakoda’s understanding of what it means to be truly human.

And at the heart of this wisdom is the importance of certain key values ​​that guide Stoney’s life through what is often a dark and confusing journey – values ​​such as respect for the Creator, creation and nature. ‘other ; compassion, endurance, perseverance, unity with each other and living in harmony.

Yes, Pip, Grampa Squirrel’s father was indeed blessed with the kind of wealth that really matters. Thank you, our mentors Stoney Nakoda, for sharing your wisdom and language with us.

© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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