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Cakapiw (Spirit Man or Man on the Moon)

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

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

We are told of a spirit which resides in all of us, a helper, Oskapiwis.

The helper sits on Tipiskawi Pisim (the Moon) and reminds us napiwuk (men) of the responsibilities we accept when we commit to help with the well-being of the people.

We are entrusted with the safety and comfort of the community and the smooth preparation of all ceremonies. We are the wood cutters, rock haulers, willow gatherers, arbour material finders, water haulers, hunters, shelter builders, fishers, trappers, sacred item makers, pipe fillers, song singers, and fire makers and keepers. These are a few of our responsibilities along with our sacred duties of being a father, brother, son, uncle, nephew, friend, grandson, husband and relative.

Cakapiw (acak napiw) kneels in front of a fire on the Moon. He holds a burning ember, that is symbolic of a star, in his hand and kneels in front of a small fire. This represents iskatiw, the home fire, the warmth of the family, energy…

We are told iskatiw (fire) transcends realities, from the physical to the spiritual. With this ability it is our direct connection to kisikookuk (beings of light/energy/spirit). One main belief of the people is that EVERYTHING is Misiwa (energy).

If we look at it from a human perspective we see the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual aspects of the realities around us. We could even look at it in terms of physics, states of matter. Solid, liquid, gas and plasma/pure energy. The trees get energy from the Sun. We harvest the wood from the tree to make the fire which in turn converts to pure energy.

My people believe we are energy/light. The term used is Kisikookuk (beings of light/energy/spirit). These identifiers are one and the same as seen through Ininiw (Cree) eyes.

Iskatiw is a sacred duty because of the reasons above. We were given this responsibility by Acakos Iskwew (Star Woman). Iskwew Itawew (She had said)…

Some of us can see Cakapiw sitting on the Moon. His head is the sea of tranquility; shoulders and arms the sea of serenity; his bent legs, the sea of rains; his hands, the sea of vapours. Copernicus crater is the fire and the ember in his hand is the crater in the sea of vapours.

This is a sacred duty and reminds us of Paymatisiwin (life). It also reminds us of where we come from: Iskwew (woman).

I was told if you analyze the word Paymatisiwin, the root word is "matisi," which is the umbilical cord, from where we all come. The literal translation of Paymatisiwin is "going forward, with the memories of ALL our female relatives who have gone before us, in a confident manner."

When Acakos Iskwew came to Earth, we are told she was the first one here. All others followed after her. She is the first grandmother, KO KO MIN NOW, and through her we all come here for a brief visit as we journey in the great mystery.

Acakos Iskwew was lowered down from Pakone Kisik (the hole in the sky) by Kokominakasis (Grandmother Spider) by a single strand of webbing. We have come to call that single strand of webbing the umbilical cord from which we all get to Oota Aski (this Earth).

Thus the sacred duty of being an Oskapiwis reminds us we are of the stars and are trusted with kisikookuk (spirit/energy/light) of Iskatiw, the sacred fire, the home fire, which is part of Pisim (the Sun).

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