ciinkwia waahpyaaci ‘Thunder has Arrived’

ciinkwia awiiwahi neehineecihi neehi-hsa ciinkwia noontaakweeci ‘The spring peepers have been singing and thunder has sounded.’ It’s happened at different times over the last three weeks, but we can say with certainty that following the first thunderstorm of the year, peepoonki ‘winter’ has come to an end and neepinwiki ‘summer’ has begun. For many Myaamiaki living in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Indiana, we listen for the song of a species of frog we call ciinkwia awiiwali ‘Spring peepers’ (Pseudacris crucifer). Our name for these frogs literally means ‘Thunder’s wives,’ which speaks to the connection we see between the awakening of these frogs and the return of warmer air that often produces thunderstorms. If you’re not familiar with Spring peepers, you can listen to their call in this YouTube video.

ciinkwia awiiwali ‘Spring peeper,’ photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Once we experience the combination of the songs of ciinkwia awiiwali and a thunderstorm we formally transition from wintertime activities, like the telling of Winter Stories, to summertime activities like peekitahaminki ‘lacrosse.’ In non-COVID times, we’d be getting the community ready for a big celebratory game of peekitahaminki followed by a feast. However, due to COVID, we’ll have to wait a little longer this year before we can celebrate together on the lacrosse field.

peekitahaminki ‘Lacrosse game’ from 2019 in Miami, OK, photo by Karen Baldwin

The return of thunderstorms also tells us that we’re getting close to planting time. Many of us will be listening for the call of wiihkoowia ‘Whippoorwill’ (which you can hear an example of in this YouTube video). The call of these small nocturnal ground nesting birds often indicates that temperatures have warmed enough to prevent a hard frost from forming and damaging new sprouts. Some Myaamiaki say that when wiihkoowia calls they are telling us “ansiwatoolo ansiwaatoolo!” ‘plant it, plant it!’

What changes are you observing where you live?

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