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Cakapis (Little Spirit or Little Boy on the Moon)

By Wilfred Buck, Researcher and Knowledge Keeper, Opaskwayak Cree Nation

Cakapis, by artist Mistawasis Buck, Opaskwayak Cree Nation (Credit: Mistawasis Buck)

We are told kayas (long ago…), that a family attempted to travel through a strong, cold, winter blizzard. They were in distress and needed to get to a larger camp for assistance.

At some point into their journey, they got confused and were lost in the raging storm.

The storm raged on for days, and the family got weaker and weaker.

When the storm finally blew over, only one little boy from the family had survived. All his relatives had perished in the storm, attempting to keep him as warm as possible.

There he sat, alone, on the vast prairie beside his relatives who had perished.

At some point, travellers found the boy and took him to the nearest camp where he was fed, clothed and comforted as best as was possible… but the little boy was lost in grief.

A council was held and decisions as to where the little boy would go were made. It was decided that a family with no sons could take in the little boy.

It so happened that in this particular camp, a family with no sons stepped up and said they would be happy to take the little boy into their family camp. So the little boy went to live among this family.

As the days grew colder and winter drew on, the large camp broke up into smaller family units.

The little boy and his new family set out for their own winter camp.

Once their journey began, things started changing in the attitude and interaction between the family and their new little charge.

The family began to treat the little boy with indifference and downright cruelty. He was given duties no one else wanted to do, and they added duties others were doing prior to his arrival. He was working constantly.

At the same time he noticed that the family wanted nothing to do with him, and they put up a ragged little tent for the boy to sleep in at night. Thus he was removed from the main shelter.

The little boy was expected to do everything that was commanded of him while being fed very little and being given tattered rags to dress and warm himself in.

Thus the little boy found himself cold, hungry, scared, lonely, tired, sad, unwanted and lost.

As the winter dragged on the little boy got weaker and weaker…

One particular howling winter night he was awoken from his little tent and was told that the family needed water. He was sent to the river, where he was to reopen the water hole that had been previously chopped in the ice by him, to fetch two pails of water. So out he went into the blowing wind.

As the little boy was finishing his job, the storm stopped blowing and the full Moon broke through the clouds.

So there he was standing by the water hole, with two pails of water, staring at Nokoom Tipiskawi Pisim, Grandmother Moon.

As he stood there a deep wave of grief overcame him and he began to cry.

He stood there, looking up at the full Moon and began to let go of all his emotions.

He told Grandmother Moon how cold, lonely and hungry he was. He told Grandmother Moon how hurt, scared, unwanted and unloved he felt. He told her how worthless he felt.

As he stood there with his two pails of water, crying in a cold winter night, something wondrous happened.

As the little boy was releasing all his emotions, Nokoom Tipiskawi Pisim was moved by the sincerity, pain and the tears that were being shed.

She decided she could do something, and so Nokoom Tipiskawi Pisim lifted the little boy into the sky and set him down on the Moon with her.

He would forever stand on the Moon with his two pails of water looking down unto Nikawiy Aski (Mother Earth) and be a reminder to all looking up of how people less fortunate than ourselves should be treated.

Thus when we look into the night sky and see the full Moon we are reminded to think and act kindly towards the weak ones, the sick ones, the helpless ones. We should comfort the hungry, the hurt, thescared, the lonely. We should look after the homeless, orphaned, incapacitated and lost ones.

The little boy was given the name Acak Apisis (Little Spirit), which has since been shortened to Cakapis.

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