Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
It's never goodbye: Killbear is leaving for this season

Today’s post comes from park naturalist Christine King of the Wasauksing First Nation, as she leaves Killbear Provincial Park for the year.

The Nishinaabeg do not have a word for “goodbye.” We say, “Baa-maa-pii, gi-gaa-waa-baa-min min-waa”, which means “see you later, see you again”.

Sometimes you could also hear “Wow,” “baamaapii” and “don’t be short.” These are obviously shortened forms of the word and phrase, but if I asked my family and friends who speak fluent Nishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language), they probably wouldn’t be able to translate the words because it is only part of the word and/or phrase. I remember our Elders tell us not to use slang in our language; they encourage us to say the whole word.

Christine in uniform in the parkThis is understandable because Nishinaabemowin is a descriptive language and the meaning, most of the time, is lost in translation. I enjoy learning and listening to my original language because it connects me with who I am as Nishinaabe-kwe (Ojibwe woman). It also connects me to my place of origin through the dialect of my community.

Throughout Turtle Island, North America, several dialects exist. Speakers who are fluent in a language could start a conversation simply by listening to the other speaker. Patricia Ningewance, author of several Nishinaabemowin resources, believes this is true across Canada. An example I can offer is the word “women.” Nishinaabeg says “kwe-wag”, while our Mushkekowag relatives say “es-kwewak.” They sound very similar with a slight variation at the beginning of the word.

Dialect is also a way of knowing where someone is from. A fluent speaker from my community shared with me that he enjoyed talking to my maternal father because he said it was like he was singing. My dad was from the Rama First Nation, near Orillia, Ontario. He often heard my dad talk, but he never listened to him because he couldn’t understand him. I think how beautiful that must have sounded and I regret not having listened to the conversation even though I didn’t understand.

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beach with autumn leaves

Today we are revitalizing our languages ​​within our communities. The younger generations are beginning the hard work of learning their language. They are devoting many hours and many visits to their fluent speakers. I will be eternally grateful to all the language revitalizers and preservation of our languages.

To reflect on “it’s never goodbye,” I remember my own travels. It’s always difficult to leave family and friends, and the departure dance begins at least an hour before I leave. I begin to gather my items, carefully packing them into my bag and then putting it by the door or in my vehicle. When I leave my immediate family, I know I’ll see them again in a week or two. But our hugs are still strong and long. Especially with my little niece, who gives me at least three hugs before walking out the door. And then she is usually followed by a frantic wave of the hand and a giant smile, while I, in turn, honk the horn for a final greeting. But we never say goodbye, we say “see you later.”

It’s a similar feeling as I prepare to leave Killbear Provincial Park for the season. On my last day, as I was getting into a park vehicle, there were four deer eating the last bit of vegetation behind the truck.

deer in autumn

They are not scared of my presence because they are used to the presence of humans in their territory, but I keep my distance anyway. I also thank you for your morning visit and wish you a safe winter.

Then, as I drive toward the Visitor Center, a hawk swoops in front of me. I stop to watch the falcon, give thanks for the visit and wish it a good winter too.

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rocky coast with blue sky and forests

Then I realize how lucky I am to have spent a summer at Killbear as a naturalist. Every day I walked in the midst of Creation. I visited all my relations and shared precious moments of discovery with other visitors to this territory.

As the park prepares to close, fall campers are enjoying the last few hours. They are also preparing for winter. Mother Earth will be covered with her white shawl to rest and most of her children will do the same.

Clouds with rays of light over the lake with island.

I’m going to miss the park, the campers, and the original inhabitants. But it’s never goodbye.

Biwabamishina is a mine (come see us again).

Weweni with mibzoyeg (bon voyage), wherever you are headed.

And finally, baamaapii (see you later), gigawabamin minwaa (see you later).