paskwāwi mostos iskwēw (Buffalo Woman)

Nicole Louise Harrison

Nicole is an Administrative Support Coordinator for FHSS Graduate Programs and a Master's of Education student.

This poem is based on: Artwork: #A15.05/001 – "Kayas – A Long Time Ago" by Cardinal, M.

This poem won second place in the Journal of Integrated Studies 2018 Ekphrastic Poetry Competition.

NOTE: The artist of this piece of artwork is Plains Cree and from Alberta, Canada. In Plains Cree, the lower case is used for all words to signify that one person, place, and/or thing is not more important than the other. All are equal.

Kayas_A Long Time Ago

Painted by Cardinal M. (1986). Medium: Serigraph

foggy, distant dreams

of drums dancing unified

behind a distant half-gaze

clothed in the red sun.

culture shock waves

shake your sparkling blood

hidden beneath the thick cloak

of another culture's clothing.

days when paskwāwi mostos ēkwa mistatimwāk

roamed free on Canadian plains

mikisiwāk calls heard for miles

lands once void of gravel, pavement, cement tiles

grass weaving free, forests young

animals obeyed the nēhiŷawēwin tongue

danced with the drums, sang ancient songs

people, animals, plants, streams, even rocks were one.

respect for all creation

love and obedience prevailed

until the veil was dropped

between the nations.

"dīvide et īmpera!" napoléon said.

mothers from fathers

to fight world war for peace.

parents from children

in the guise of education and protection services.

a tear streams down

your war torn visage

paskwāwi mostos iskwēw

memories too painful to bear.

paskwāwimostos iskwēw

so calm amidst the storm

blessed by the gliding mikisiw o'erhead

protected by paskwāwimostos abroad.

nōcokwēsiw surrounded by

a culture not your own

yet feet firmly dance, drum, sing

for peace, unity, love all the more.

revitalization, restoration, revival

not yet lost, not yet forgotten

visions of times no more

yet still to be.

rest assured, some day

even the animals will hear and obey


as earth's last hope for survival.

lessons taught and forgotten

so long ago, so far away

some day nōcokwēsiw

seven generations

from ink spilling on rolls of parchment

before iron clad personages robed in black, in red

adorned with rings of gold and silver

brought the nations to their knees.

nēhiŷaw-iskwēw. nōcokwēsiw.

paskwāwi mostos iskwēw.

we sing, fast, smudge, sweat, dance for you

to remind us why we're here

what we need yet do

please, don't leave us behind when you go

where paskwāwi mostosak still roam free

and mikisiwāk warning cries still heard

upon that distant shore

where pain can touch you no more.

Cree Words:

Paskwāwi mostos: buffalo (literally: prairie/plains cow)

ēkwa: and

mistatim: horse (mistatimwāk – plural; literally: big dog)

mikisiw: bald eagle (mikisiwāk – plural; aka: kihēw, eagle)

nēhiŷawēw-: Plains Cree or indigenous to the land of North America (variations in ending can denote the language, the people, the traditional ways)

nōcokwēsiw: a Cree elder (female)

iskwēw: woman

“dīvide et īmpera!”: Latin for “divide and conquer!”