Once there was a young woman. She married a young hunter who was very handsome and strong. The spring after their wedding, the woman gave birth to a girl who was beautiful like her mother and strong like her father. The baby was named Jipjawej.

Jipjawej grew quickly, more quickly than any other baby her age. By her first birthday, she could walk and talk. Her mother was proud of her smart and beautiful daughter. Everyone commented on Jipjawej's beauty; her pearly wape'k nipitl, her bright jijijuwaqitewamu'k npukwik and her nijinjewamu'k nsi.

Jipjawej went everywhere her mother went. She followed on young, strong legs. She loved her mother more than anything and hated to be parted from her. Her mother loved having Jipjawej with her. She loved running her fingers through her soft hair, watching her young daughter's nsi form words that the other children couldn't.

It was Jipjawej's second birthday when she woke late in the night. Her mother was awake, dressing quietly while stepping over her husband and daughter.

"Mama?" Jipjawej asked.

"Shh," her mother whispered. "Go back to sleep."

"Where are you going?"

"One of the village women is sick. The elders asked for my help. I will be home in the morning." The young mother left the wigwam to comfort her dying friend. The woman felt a flash of hate. The white man's disease was spreading to their home. Another flash; worry this time. She must keep Jipjawej safe.

Jipjawej crept out of the wigwam. She hated to be left behind, especially by her mother. Her sharp jijijuwaqitewamu'k npukwik found her mother's shadowy form in the faint moonlight. She hurried after her mother, taking deep breaths. Nipk was in the air. She stopped just outside the wigwam her mother had just gone into and opened the flap. She peered inside the flap. The air smelled dirty and stale.

The sick woman scared Jipjawej. The woman looked like a body. She looked hopeless. Jipjawej tried to focus on her mother, who was bravely helping to tend to the woman but the woman's defeated npukwik that had focused on nothing had terrified Jipjawej. She ran back to her father, snuggling into his side.

Jipjawej got sick three days later when the full heat of Nipk was bearing down. She curled up in her blankets, feeling her exceptionally young, but exceptionally strong body fight the disease. She fought the sickness for a lot longer than most adults did. Jipjawej noticed the moment when the air became dirty and stale. She knew she must have the same defeated npukwik the dying woman had.

"Kesalul," she said to her mother the first words she had spoken in days.

"Kesalul," her mother replied.

Jipjawej died the next day.

Her mother went mad. For eight days she cradled the tiny body close. She watched the little mouth hoping the overly nijinjewamu'k nsi would part, revealing the wape'k nipitl and that Jipjawej's jijijuwaqitewamu'k npukwik would have life again. She wanted to hear 'kesalul' from her baby one more time.

On the ninth day, her husband took Jipjawej away from her. He buried his baby girl in the woods beneath the largest tree around.

When he returned to the wigwam, his wife was gone. She had run away into the woods. She had run away from the death of Jipjawej.

The heat of Nipk had faded and still she stayed gone. Her husband expected her to return before Kesik but when the harsh snow blew in, she did not return. His heart broke; he had lost them both. His wife could not have lived through this Kesik. They were both dead.

But the young woman was not dead. She was savage and wild now but she was alive. She braved the winter, tears streaming down her face, freezing her cheeks. The wind whistled in her ears but all she heard was Jipjawej's last word "kesalul". Over and over again "kesalul kesalul kesalul".

The woman ran until she lost herself in the white world. Her thoughts ran together, as did the scenery. All she saw was white. All she heard was 'kesalul'. All she wanted was her baby. He heart yearned for her baby, her Jipjawej.

One day she came to a place where the white snow was gone. The forest was rich and green. She stepped hesitantly towards the huge tree. She knew this tree. This was the tree she and her husband had married under in another life.

She walked toward the tree, circling it. It was on the other side of the tree that she found it. The pile of stones, the grave. It had to Jipjawej's resting place. The baby she hadn't seen for far too long.

The woman fell to the ground, hand on the stones, trying to touch her baby. She bowed her head, staring at the dirt when there was a light touch on her hand. She looked up. A Jipjawej bird was perched on her hand but it didn't look like a normal Jipjawej. Its npukwik were jijijuwaqitemu'k instead of black and its breast was nijinjewamu'k instead of red and its beak was wape'k. The Jipjawej pecked at her hand.

"Jipjawej," the woman murmured her daughter's name to the bird.

The bird fluffed its wings at her voice.

"Jipjawej," the woman said again.

The strange coloured Jipjawej bird opened its beak but it didn't sing. It spoke. "Kesalul," the bird trilled. "Kesalul."

The Jipjawej jumped to one shoulder. It pecked her cheek, breaking the frozen tear tracks. It jumped to the other shoulder, repeating the process.

"Kesalul," the bird told her.

The woman smiled for the first time in many ages. This was just the body of a Jipjawej bird; it was the soul of Jipjawej her daughter. Her baby girl had returned to her.

"Kesalul." Jipjawej said.

"Kesalul," her mother told her.

The bird pecked her fondly on the cheek; a goodbye kiss. Then, Jipjawej flew away. The woman's heart ached but she had been healed. Her daughter was with her, was always in her heart.

The woman turned when a noise reached her ears. There was her husband, standing just a step away. She froze, uncertain. He held his arms open to her. Though, she looked so different, his heart would always know her. He help her close, whispering words of comfort.

The woman returned with her husband. They lived for many more years but they never had another child. The woman knew she could never love another child like she did Jipjawej. She never told her husband about the Jipjawej bird. She never saw the bird again but sometimes, late in the night, she would hear a call of "Kesalul".

Cheat Sheet

Npukwik – Eye

Nipitl – Teeth

Nsi – Lips

Kesalul – I love you

Nipk – Summer

Nijinjewamu'k – Pink

Jijijuwaqitewamu'k – Brown

Kesik – Winter

Wape'k – white

Jipjawej – Robin

©The Last Letter

This was written for my Mi'Kmaw studies class. We had to incorporate native words into the story.