kiyam, let it be, let it be…

During the ‘wearing us as costumes‘ discussion, one poster suggested to another that he ” kiyam-pi”.  To me this word, kiyam, contains a glimpse into a world-view that is very much at the core of Cree-ness.

I have had this word explained to me and modelled for me many times.  Each time I feel like I am seeing a new facet of it.  Do not look for a simple translation of this term. If you have access to a Cree dictionary (as you should if you are on the internet) you will find a long entry.  From Arok Wolvengrey’s dictionary we get this:

oh well, it’s okay, never mind, think nothing of it; so much for this; anyway, rather; let it be, let there be no further delay; please; let’s go then; do so; quietly

“Quietly” is very much a part of this word.  kiyam is a root for various verbs meaning to be quiet, to move quietly, to sit quietly and so on.  However the “quietness” of the word kiyam is not just in the action of avoiding making noise.  It very much includes a quietness of the spirit, echoed in the body.

When someone tells you to “kiyam” they aren’t just telling you to let it be, to let it go, they are also letting it go themselves.  The word often comes with a shrug of the shoulders. It comes with a letting go both mental and physical.

People have different opinions.  That has always been and will always be true, regardless of what culture you come from.  The Cree, the Métis, and many other aboriginal peoples can and do have very heated discussions where many different points of view are explained.  Some people become very passionate, but there is a strong imperative to let everyone have their say, even if their words are rough, even if their words seem confused.  There is wisdom in people’s strong words too, in their emotional reactions, in their seemingly confused explanations.

Sometimes these discussions can be maddening, if you are in a rush.  It can be hard sometimes to understand what someone’s account of a childhood wrong has to do with a current issue.  Except if you really listen, it becomes less difficult.  People do not say these things for no reason.

Sometimes you do not want to hear.  I did not want to hear and I would like to state that honestly.  I gave my reasons.  They may seem vague, but there can be no other way short of giving in to the discussion I refused to engage in. Yes, there is often wisdom in the words of others, but sometimes people just want to draw you into their anger.  That is a draining, and dangerous place to get caught in.

kiyam.  Let it be.  Sometimes you have to just let it go and move on.  Sometimes you don’t get to prove that you are “right”.  Sometimes you don’t get to “win”.  In much settler (or western or whatever you want to call it) discourse it seems that the goal is to wrest that verbal victory from your opponents.  To smash her arguments to dust, to show them for fools.  There is persuasion at play too of course, but the persuasion is often in the form of “who won that round”.

For many native peoples, the persuasion is everything.  If you cannot convince others, then what good are your ideas?  What good is a rhetorical victory anyway?  You cannot “win”.  Your opponent will come to agree with you, or she won’t.  kiyam.  You can’t let it get to you.  Let it go, let it be.

This is not a dismissive or a rude word.  It reminds you of the importance of not allowing your spirit to become sickened with anger or the need to win.  It reminds the speaker as well as the person being spoken to.

So kinanâskomitin, Bruce.  It was a good reminder.

Share this: Google+ Reddit Print

Categories: Cree vocabulary, Culture

0 Responses to kiyam, let it be, let it be…


  1. Bob says:

    I apologize for throwing all of these things at you at once instead of addressing the narrow issue that was brought up. My thoughts were not ment to anger anyone or stir up trouble. In regards to Emo’s expression of distaste for me, I am not sure why he was surprised that you responded to me. Do I have no value as a human being? Does tolerance only go so far as our own opinions or experience allow? Anyway, I can’t expect you to answer for him. As far as why I don’t express these thoughts to my native friends I think is answered by the frustration that it caused here. My main purpose for being here, where I live, is to help the people, not to have my questions answered or validated or to win an argument with them. Emo is either 1. A Native, 2. Someone who does not live among Natives 3. Someone who is very naive, to ask why I don’t ask these hard questions of my friends. As you probably know, there are several kinds of non-natives. 1. There are those who are very prejudiced and ignorant and negative against Natives. 2. There are those who have another stereotypical view of the “Noble Natives” who can do no wrong, which also, in my opinion, de-humanizes them. These people often times want to follow their religions, try hard to find some distant relative who is native etc. 3. Those who hardly even know that there are still aboriginal people in North America. 4. Those who care for Native peoples, while realizing that they are just humans, with all of the same faults and weaknesses of every other human that was ever born. I am in that fourth group. Again, it was much easier for me to ask someone who I will never meet, who doesn’t really care what I think, and who I had less chance of offending. I again apologize for throwing all of those things at you at once. I don’t feel that you “owe” me any answers. It was just an honest quest to see what you might think about these issues.

  2. Emo says:

    I made a simple (even tautological) point: if you can’t talk about this with your friends… they’re not your friends. Re:
    “Those who care for Native peoples, while realizing that they are just humans, with all of the same faults and weaknesses of every other human that was ever born.”
    If they’re your friends, they’ll presumably be aware of your particular faults and weaknesses; and if you actually know them (as friends or simply as individuals) you’ll be aware of their particular quiddities. Otherwise, as I say, they’re not your friends.

    If the conclusion you draw from this is that you have no value as a human being (as you’ve stated, above)… hey, if the shoe fits, wear it. Instead of insisting that you have so much in common with people (whom you may have nothing in common with) you might get better results starting from the assumption that we’re each profoundly alien from one another.

    If you assume that it would be impossible to discuss your problems with your (supposed) close personal friends because it would offend them… why are you surprised when anonymous contributors to a website find the same contentions offensive? Conversely, if you can’t see why your comments were exasperating (if not somewhat offensive) to âpihtawikosisân… man, you should go back, read them again, and try to figure out what’s wrong with yourself. If you find that you can’t discuss these issues with your First Nations “friends” without people taking offense… well, you are a bit part of that equation.

  3. Bob says:

    Elmo, The truth is, I wasn’t even talking to you, nor do I care what you think, “friend”.

  4. Emo says:

    Well, Blob, if we’re adding the letter “L” to each others’ names at this point, I’d say again…

    …if you can’t see why your comments were exasperating (if not somewhat offensive) to âpihtawikosisân… man, you should go back, read them again, and try to figure out what’s wrong with yourself.

    Gee, you can’t talk about this stuff with your friends without people getting offended, and you can’t talk about it anonymously on the internet without people getting offended. This must be someone’s fault other than yours, right?

    Let me tell you, son: I don’t have “all the same faults and weaknesses of every other human every born”… and neither do you.

  5. Kind of missing the point here, folks…

Leave a Reply