Creative team: Cal Black (writing) and Taylor Reynolds (art)
Pitched to Iron Circus Comics for “YOU DIED: An Anthology of the Afterlife”, Feb 2019
Hay-Hay! is a story about the risks we take to feel alive and accepting the consequences of those risks, including death.
Rookie musher Maggie faces the worst when her dog team runs off into a whiteout blizzard without her, taking her sled and supplies with them. All alone and dangerously sleep-deprived, Maggie knows she’s one twisted ankle away from hypothermia. The storm wipes away any trace of her dogs’ trail, so Maggie sets out in what she hopes is the right direction.
On her way, Maggie meets a strange man who may be a hallucination from lack of sleep, or might be Cree trickster-hero Wisakedjak. “Why are you here?” the man asks, and Maggie has a hard time answering. Is mushing worth the risk of dying out here?
As they walk, Maggie sees scenes from her life in the snowstorm: a dreary cubicle messy with paperwork, her grandmother’s cabin, the sled dogs she inherited from her grandmother. After her Grandmother’s death, Maggie had traveled out to the kennel to sell the the land and dogs. But when she met a puppy with a bark that sounded like “Hay-Hay!”, (pronounced ‘high-high’) an expression of thankfulness in Cree that reminded her of her grandmother, Maggie knew she couldn’t go back to the city.
Note: while I (Cal) grew up learning about the First Nations peoples in Canada as a way to reclaim lost ancestral history and worked within my local First Nations community, I am not a First Nations person. I cannot tell their stories, they are not mine to tell.
Instead, Hay-Hay is a story of a woman like me: someone raised in the city but pulled to the outdoors. She wishes she had more opportunity to learn about her ancestor’s culture but what she has learned affects her perception and understanding of the world. Whether Maggie encounters an actual spirit in the blizzard or simply hallucinates one is left deliberately ambiguous.
I cannot tell the stories of Wisakedjak, but I can introduce his name and concept to those who might not have heard of him.
It is important to note that there are multiple dialects of Cree and even more ways to spell the word we use for our title, “Hay-Hay.”
Spellings range from “Ay-hay” to “hiy hiy” (which more closely resembles the pronounciation ‘hi hi’). However, I defer to this article on the subject posted to the Cree Literacy Network by Arden Ogg, October 8, 2017, and the usage in the Online Cree Dictionary.
Maggie encounters what might be the spirit of Wisakedjak (sometimes anglicized as ‘Whiskeyjack’), a Cree trickster hero… or it might just be a hallucination of the same hero from her grandmother’s stories.
In the modern era, the trickster has proved useful to those seeking a return to Indigenous approaches to learning.Ibid
Blair Braverman writes extensively about her journey to become a musher in her book ‘Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube’ (HarperCollins) and on Twitter, sharing information about the dogs, musher daily life and training for long distance races like the Iditarod.