Reclaiming the legacy of Mistahi Maskwa

Thanks to Milton Tootoosis for allowing me to share this note from his Facebook group ACIMOWIN by Headman/Counsellor Milton Tootoosis. It is exciting to see that descendants of this visionary leader are finding ways to reclaim their proper place in Canada, and promote the name and legacy of their iconic ancestor.

The unique and historical Descendants of Mistahi Maskwa (Big Bear) Family Reps Information Meeting is on Sat Aug 19 @ Little Pine First Nation. Starts at 1pm. Prep meeting for the inaugural Gathering in 2018. This should be good.

Proud to be connected to the legendary leader who had great vision and resisted the temptation to accept treaty on the settlers terms. Big Bear & Poundmaker had the guts to demand better terms for their people. They warned the other Indian leaders that the treaty promises were not good enough and that the Queen and her reps could not be trusted (eg. broken treaties & Indian wars in the US). They would both be labelled rebel Indians and were unjustly charged, convicted and sentenced to prison for treason. Time to exonerate/pardon the legends. Their criticism and questions to the Queen’s reps have lived on since 1876. That’s vision, courage and leadership.


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Seeking Clemency for Poundmaker – via Eagle Feather News

Floyd Favel, curator of the Poundmaker Cree Nation museum, and band councillor Milton Tootoosis, on the opening day of the Poundmaker museum’s exhibit, which hosted some of Chief Poundmaker’s belongings.

Poundmaker seeks clemency for its namesake chief

While the fight to have treaty rights recognized is a continual battle for First Nations across Canada, Poundmaker Cree Nation has taken on the added task of exonerating its namesake chief in its quest for justice.

This year band council members wrote a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, asking the federal government to grant clemency to Chief Poundmaker, who was imprisoned in 1885, following the Battle of Batoche.

Accounts of Poundmaker’s influence and actions at the time consistently depict a chief committed to peacemaking and taming the hostile spirits of his younger warriors, not a war leader in league with the Métis resistance.


Poundmaker signed Treaty 6 in 1876, but not before demanding that the government provide for his people in times of famine. Nine years, later, when it was clear Ottawa was not fulfilling its duty, Poundmaker and his men travelled to Battleford to ask for rations. The town was deserted so they took what was in the warehouses. In response Colonel Otter descended on Poundmaker’s camp at Cut Knife Hill with 325 soldiers.

Poundmaker’s warriors, who caught wind of the attack, forced Otter’s men to retreat, but Poundmaker convinced the warriors not to pursue them. The chief also made sure prisoners on a wagon supply train captured by Métis days before the Battle of Batoche were treated well. He then willingly walked to Battleford after General Middleton rejected his offer of a peace settlement.

Poundmaker was found guilty of treason and spent a year in Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba. He died four months later, while visiting his adopted father Crowfoot on the Blackfoot reserve.

“(He was) falsely convicted of treason,” said Floyd Favel, curator for Poundmaker Cree Nation’s museum. “Mistakenly the Crown associated him with Louis Riel’s activities but these were two separate incidents.”

“We weren’t resisting anything. We were asking for the promises due,” said Favel, who added the exoneration is important because it would get the government to admit there was a wrong committed against the Nation’s leader.

Exonerating Poundmaker would be “a simple act of justice and reconciliation,” said band councillor Milton Tootoosis, who helped draft the letter to the Prime Minister.

He said official resolutions by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Assembly of First Nations in support of Poundmaker’s exoneration were passed last fall. The Prime Minister’s office replied to the letter, saying the matter would be referred to three ministries: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Heritage and Justice. Tootoosis said none of the departments have responded yet.

“If they don’t we’ll move on. We’ll rewrite our own history books and we’re going to embark on a new chapter to tell the story that Canada did it wrong and that Poundmaker was actually unjustly tried and unjustly charged,” said Tootoosis.

Tootoosis said the letter is a test of how serious Canada is when it comes to reconciliation and timely, given Canada 150 celebrations.

“If the Prime Minister is talking about…the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the TRC Calls to Action, then this is our call to action: exonerate Chief Poundmaker,” he said.

Poundmaker Cree Nation’s museum hosted a few of Poundmaker’s belongings, on loan from Parks Canada. His gun and ceremonial staff were on display in July.

Favel said the experience was humbling and empowering. The gun represents livelihood and the staff represents good governance, qualities, he said, his people need to survive as a nation.

“Having those objects within our homeland once again reminds us of the strength and purpose that we need, just like our ancestors had,” he said.

Favel hopes Poundmaker’s possessions will one day belong to the Cree Nation. He said he’s working with Parks Canada in the spirit of reconciliation.

“Only by developing good relations and dialogue can we get things to happen,” he said.

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#CreeSimonSays: Lil Kohkom salutes the King of Rock n Roll

Did you know today marks 40 years since we lost Elvis Presley? To mark the occasion, Simon Bird helped Dolores Sand perform as Lil Kohkom. Hope this brings a smile!

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Cree language facts for editors of English and French: The Cree Language Family

Charlie Lippert: Linguistic Subdivisions of the Cree

This article written for the Language Portal of Canada was originally published on 17 June 2013 (it was also translated into French for that site). Since it is no longer available online, I am reproducing it here.  Special thanks to Charlie Lippert for updating his Wikipedia map to reflect our understanding! 

Arden Ogg, Editors’ Association of Canada and the Cree Literacy Network
(The Editors’ Association of Canada began using the name Editors Canada on July 1, 2015.)
Dorothy Thunder, University of Alberta and the Cree Literacy Network


The increasing emergence of Aboriginal languages into the mainstream is a positive development in Canada’s multicultural evolution, but for editors of texts in English and French who encounter a language such as Cree, it can present a serious challenge.

For English and French, style guides such as The Chicago Manual or Le Ramat provide written precedents for almost every situation. The Oxford English Dictionary and the Larousse represent centuries of dedicated lexicography. For Cree there is no authoritative style guide, nor is there a single dictionary that covers the complete spectrum of variants. Here’s why.

Fact: The term “Cree” defines both a language and a whole family of languages.

The term “dialect” is often used for the various distinct forms that Cree may take. This usage is shared by almost everyone who speaks Cree, English or French, but linguists agree that they are, in fact, separate languages1. Neighbouring languages within this continuum may be as closely related as English is to Dutch, or French to Italian. Within the vast geographical swath between the Rockies and Labrador, the deepest divide aligns roughly with the provincial boundary between Ontario and Quebec.

The most accurate current representation of Cree variants is shown on the map above [it can be found in Wikipedia]. From Ontario west to the Rockies, the map divides the language into four main subgroups: Plains Cree, Swampy Cree (called “Mushkegowuk” in some communities), Woods (Woodlands or Rock) Cree, and Moose Cree. Some speakers recognize a further subdivision of Plains Cree into southern and northern variants. The most common label that speakers in the west use to refer to their language is, simply, “Cree.”

In Quebec and Labrador, subdivisions include Innu-Aimun (the contemporary name for Montagnais and Naskapi), Atikamekw, and Northern and Southern variants of James Bay Cree (also known as East Cree). As in the west, many eastern speakers also refer to their language simply as “Cree.”

The editor’s first responsibility is to determine which member of the Cree language family is being used. If it seems confusing, consider that all these labels were first applied to the language not by the speakers themselves, but by outsiders—ultimately passing into English from French. It’s a little like Columbus referring to indigenous North Americans as “Indians.”

Fact: Reliable contemporary dictionaries for many varieties of Cree are readily available.

Often, misconceptions drive a laisser-faire attitude towards Aboriginal languages in print. The most common of these? “It doesn’t really have a written form, just write it like it sounds.” Until the arrival of the printing press, and the emergence of authoritative dictionaries, the same description might have applied to English or French. With many variants of Cree endangered, Cree can’t afford the luxury of a slow evolution of writing standards. Editors encountering Cree words and phrases in English or French texts have a unique opportunity to help promote written language standards. They can begin to do so by making use of readily available resources, such as the following online dictionaries:


1 Marguerite MacKenzie, “Towards a Dialectology of Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1980). See also Jeffrey Muehlbauer, “Statistics Canada’s 2006 numbers continue to confuse the mainstream press,” That Môniyâw Linguist (blog), February 21, 2012,


This article is about how SRO and Syllabics can be precisely equivalent in writing Cree. It is the third piece Dorothy Thunder and I have published through the Editors’ Association of Canada and the “Language Portal of Canada” — the federal government’s online information site for language professionals.

Through the Language Portal, we reach out (in English and in French) to “word nerds” of all varieties and offer them a taste of what it’s like to work with Cree. We hope these pieces are also helpful to students, teachers and speakers of Cree, showing the language through a slightly different lens.

Original URL (broken links as of 15 August 2017):


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akihtâsona – Numbers Poster

Robin Mitchell Cranfield: Numbers Poster

A gorgeous printable resource from typographer Robin Mitchell Cranfield – with thanks for permission to share it! From Robin’s own blog:
This printable poster (use button at bottom of post to download) displays numbers 1 – 10 in Cree, in both the y-dialect spoken in Alberta and southern Saskatchewan, also known as nêhiyawêwin or Plains Cree, and in the n-dialect also known as Swampy Cree or nêhinawêwin, spoken in Manitoba and the Saskatchewan communities of Cumberland House and Shoal Lake.

The lovely illustration (used with permission) is by Julie Flett adapted from her book We All Count. Arden Ogg of the Cree Literacy Network, who wrote the preface for We All Count, generously lent her time to copyedit this poster. Thanks, Arden!

The poster is 11 x 17 inches, so if your printer can print it on a 12 x 18 sheet of paper, that’s perfect. Otherwise, print on a standard tabloid sheet and “shrink to fit”.

Robin also included a link to the marvellous Brian McDonald (and friends) singing his numbers song:

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2017: ohpahowipîsim / ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᐏᐲᓯᒼ / August

August 2017Thanks to Solomon Ratt for allowing the Cree Literacy Network to share his 2017 calendar, complete with his own original illustrations. Following his request, we will post one image at the beginning of each month. For those who like to plan a little further in advance, a link to complete pdfs is included here:
Y- and Th-Dialect Version:
N- and Th-Dialect Version:

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Poundmaker Museum Opening: With thanks to David MacKinnon and Roxanne Tootoosis

It was a fabulous day for the grand opening of the Poundmaker Museum at Poundmaker Cree Nation. The museum itself is a wealth of historical knowledge. The opening included various dignitaries including elders who spoke of the history of the resistance of 1885. The site is gorgeous and well placed, overlooking the battlefield in which Colonel Otter’s forces were defeated. Chief Poundmaker’s tomahawk and rifle were displayed. Request was made for the exoneration of Poundmaker. One of the dignitaries, Blaine Favel, said it eloquently: “You can’t have truth and reconciliation without the truth.” Kudos to the curator Floyd Favel, Sask Culture and all those responsible for the development of such a wonderful place commemorating such an important piece of history.

CBC’s coverage of the event can be found here:

Thanks to Roxanne Tootoosis for permisson to share some of her photos of the event right on her own home turf!

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#CreeSimonSays: When is the best time to learn Cree?

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#CreeSimonSays: Lil Moshom’s introductions

Sent from my iPhone

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2017: paskowipîsim / ᐸᐢᑯᐏᐲᓯᒼ / July

July 2017Thanks to Solomon Ratt for allowing the Cree Literacy Network to share his 2017 calendar, complete with his own original illustrations. Following his request, we will post one image at the beginning of each month. For those who like to plan a little further in advance, a link to complete pdfs is included here:
Y- and Th-Dialect Version:
N- and Th-Dialect Version:

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