Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wolves and Coyotes

Osiyo, nigada!  Greetings, all!

Ko’iga Unadodaquinvi, Anayilisv taline, Iga Kanati
Today is Monday, March 2nd, Day of the Wolf

Some have asked about these words that open many of these mailings, so I’ll break it down for you:

"Osiyo" is the traditional Cherokee greeting, “It’s good (to see you).” According to some fluent elders, it’s really the ONLY Cherokee greeting. Constructions such as “Osda sunalei” good + morning, are actually statements rather than greetings. But a truth about any living language is that it changes.

Oh, one thing that annoys me is when people insert an apostrophe in osiyo, making it o’siyo. This may have come about because the first widely available book on the language, “Beginning Cherokee,” used a typeface in which the apostrophe and accent mark were identical. Apostrophes are used to show where letter have been intentionally dropped, such as “don’t.” Osi is the root for “good”, so nothing has been dropped between the “o” and the “si”. If you drop the first syllable, then ‘Siyo is fine.

I’m also annoyed by people who hyphenate powwow, but I regard that as advertising misuse like Krispy Kreme. Public praise to the first person who can tell me what the word ‘powwow’ means.

Ko’iga is contracted from kohi iga or now + day, today.

Some of you have noticed that the word Kanati is not the more common word for wolf, waya or wahaya. Kanati is a proper name, usually translated as lucky or fortunate hunter. It is the name of the day-sign symbolized by the wolf. Several of the 20 daysign names are not literal.

Wolves have made their presence known recently...

At the end of January, my region of Kentucky suffered a devastating ice storm that’s being called the worst disaster in a century. The entire power grid was knocked out in one night, and some people were without electricity for weeks. The rain froze on the trees, creating hundreds of pounds of weight that brought limbs crashing down on utility lines, roads, and even buildings. We’re still digging out.

So is the wildlife. Recently, I’ve heard many more wolves and coyotes near my windows at night. Their winter dens were destroyed, and they are struggling to find food and new lodgings. Turf wars are brewing, all the lines are being re-drawn. It’s denning time in advance of the birth of the wolf and coyote litters. They are preying on the newborn fawns and anything else they can find.

For those of you more familiar with the urban life, wolves don’t tolerate coyotes in their territory. Wolves are about three times their size, so smart coyotes flee, and dumb or slow coyotes die. The result, as Darwin would tell you, is smarter and faster coyotes. Perhaps this is the origin of their “trickster” status… they had to be faster and smarter to survive.

I live in a very rural area. My friends around the country sometimes wonder how I can live in a place with no movies, theaters, art museums, bookstores, shopping malls.

I wonder how they can live in a place where they can’t hear the choral song of the wolves in the night, even if the wolves are arguing with the coyotes. As one of the medicine people says, "How lonely is the night without the song of the wolves.”

Brian Wilkes


Anonymous said...

I've always been lead to believe that a powwow is a gathering of like spirits.

tsiya said...

Osiyo, Brian,
I can't see how I could live in a place where sirens howled and tires screechd all night.
I was in NYC for 3 weeks, never have I been so glad to leave a place. It is fine for some, but others need the open skies.