Small Number Counts to 100-Blackfoot

Small Number Counts to 100 – Blackfoot

Poksskaaksini Kiipipo Ito’tokstakiiwa
(Blackfoot Translation)

Written by Veselin Jungic & Mark MacLean 
Illustrated by Simon Roy 
Blackfoot Translation by Connie Crop Eared Wolf and Eldon Yellowhorn

The first story, Small Number Counts to 100 was inspired by narration from Ms. Rina Sinclair of the Siksika Nation. The story can be shown to elementary school students as a counting practice/puzzle or as a pattern recognition problem. For high school students it can be a way to introduce arithmetic progressions, modular addition, or an idea of number systems with a base different than 10.

Story Transcript: English & Blackfoot

Poksskaaksini Kiipipo Ito’tokstakiiwa

Small Number is a 5 year-old boy who gets into a lot of mischief.  He lives with his Grandma and Grandpa, who patiently put up with his antics, in a small settlement with 7 tipis arranged in a circle.

Ama sahkomapii anista “Poksskaaksini.” Aisistoiisstoyimii kii ikkattsisskiwa. Ohpokitaopiimiiwa maaahsiksi. Otsiiksiiyiiponiisakiaksi.

One day Small Number wanders out into the woods and sees a beautiful black cat with a long white stripe down its back.

Maatakaitapisskiipa mii otsitaokiikahpiaawa. Ihkitsiikaiyi miistsii niitoyiistsi ito’takaakokiiwato’pistsi. Kiyannikai ksistsiko ama Poksskaaksini iitsitssoo iitsitsapi ami sikohpoosa. Amo ookakinni (apiko’kakini) ksikksinnatsi istsitsiikisstsipimii.

Wanting to take the cat home to show Grandma, he tries to catch it and learns that the black cat is really a skunk.

Maa sahkomapi skaistaayiskaa mahksinnimattahsi ami poosa. Akkiahkiaapotoissatakiattsiiwa mahsa ami sikohpoosa.

Smelling strongly from the skunk spray, he runs home to Grandma, who quickly takes him out to wash the smell off him.  As hard as she scrubs him down, she can’t quite get rid of all the bad smell.  

Skoahtokkssimimma ami apiikaayi otsskssistoiyssi, aahkiaapoksskaasiiwa. Ami maaahsa otaiyaissiistsiimokkaaya. Oonammitsskaiikssiistsimokaayi maatohkotahkannaiyiistapsstsiiwa ami makksimo’wa.

Grandma doesn’t want Small Number spending time in their tipi until he smells better, so she decides to set him a task she thinks will take him a long time. She knows Small Number can count to 100.  

Ami mahsa oomattstaaka mahkitsipstaopissaiyi ami niitoyiss, ikkommaikottsskimima. Sottamitsiikippaiyotahkattsiwaayi, manistakksiisama’pisspi.  Otsitaakohkannaikakoiyisspi ami makksimoiyi.  Issksinnoiyiiwaayi ohkottsito’toksstakki kiipipoyi. Itannistsiiwayi mahkokssto’sii amiistsi niitoyiistsi

She tells him to start at their tipi, which is right beside the entrance to the settlement at the east point of the circle, and to walk around the circle of tipis by first heading south.

Aakohto’mattapokkstaki amii ookoowawayi, i’tsohkopiiyaawa amii pinnapohkitsimi.  Okki, aakotoomoo’takkaatooma amiistsi akokaatsistsi.

His task is to count the tipis going round and round until he can tell her which tipi he gets to when he reaches 100.

Aakanistappootakkoo amooka aamsskaapohtsi. Aakstammatsistao’takoowa, kiasappanistsookstaakiisi kiipipo, kiannimaiyi aakitsokaipii.  Aakitannistsiwa ami maaahsa ami niitoyis otsitsiikoksstaaksspi.

Small Number starts walking around the circle counting.  He starts at 1 at his tipi, and when he gets back there, he has counted to 8. 

Ama “Poksskaaksini” itomatapai’pi. Ami ookoowaayi ihtomattapokkstahkii. Ni’to’ksa isto’matapokstaki. Otaisskito’to’hsii ami ookoowayi, naanisoo akohkokstakiiwa.

When he gets to 15 and is back at his own tipi, he stops and sits down. He counts on his fingers for a while...

Ottatsskitao’tohsii ami ookoowaayi nisitsiikoopootoowa akatahkoksstaki; kiitaako’piiwa. Ookitsiiksi ihtsittomatapohtokksstaakiwa.

...and then runs in to see his Grandma and yells: “It is Auntie Rena’s tipi!” which is one tipi south of his grandparents’. 

Aaniiwa, “Naaahsa! Aniiyo’ka naa nikssista Rena ookoowaayi!” Ami ookoowaayi ihpo’kisstsiiwa oostoowaawaayi ookoowaawaayi.

Question: How did Small Number know that the 100th tipi is the one just south of his grandparents’ tipi without actually counting them?

Q: Kippanikit Tsa nitssksinimma ama Poksskaaksini otaakitssikoksstaaksi omi ni’toiyiss pookisstsiwa oostoowaawaayi ami ookoowaawaayi, kii maatssinnaostoom amiistsi niitoyiistsi?

About the Blackfoot Language

Blackfoot is the language spoken by the Siksika, Kainai and Piikani, which they call niitsi’powahsin. Blackfoot is also a cultural unit as the three groups blended together in politics, religion and social customs. Since ancient times the oral tradition conveyed the thoughts and impressions of the people, but in the early 1970s they began experimenting with a written version of the language. Before the days of radio and television most Blackfoot people spoke their mother tongue, whereas today the language is endangered and there are fewer native speakers in each generation. Literacy in Blackfoot offers an opportunity to learn the language in a modern format because reading and writing introduces new modes of communication.

    - Eldon Yellowhorn of the Piikani First Nation

Credits and Acknowledgements

  • Inspired by narrations from Rena Sinclair of the Siksika Nation
  • Special thanks to all participants of the BIRS First Nations Math Education Workshop, Banff, AB, November 22-27, 2009, for their help in starting Small Number’s first adventure
  • Special thanks to Staahtsistayaiki Genevieve A. Fox of the Kainai First Nation
  • Special thanks to Karen Manders, PIMS Communications Manager
  • Financial support provided by NSERC, PIMS, UBC, the IRMACS Centre, and SFU