Flanders yikwahaskānihk : “In Flanders Fields”

Thanks to the Office of the Treaty Commissioner for sharing this video of Dolores Sand’s reading in Cree of this important annual remembrance. The full text is given below, followed by Neal McLeod’s comments on the vocabulary.


Public Domain Image

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae is perhaps the most beloved war poem ever written. We share it here in honour of Cree-speaking veterans of many wars.
 Thanks to Jean Okimāsis and Arok Wolvengrey for sharing their Plains Cree translation, based on the Woods Cree translation by Minnie McKenzie. 
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Flanders yikwahaskānihk wāh-wēpāstanwa wāpikwaniya
tastawāyihk pimitāskwahikana kā-nāh-nīpitēstēki
ta-kiskinawācihtāhk ita kā-pimisiniyāhk; ēkwa kīsikohk
aniki ē-sōhkē-nikamocik piyēsīsak ē-pimihācik
ētataw pēhtākosiwak iyikohk ē-māh-matwēwēhk askīhk.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

onakataskēwak niyanān.  namōya māka kayās
nikī-pimātisinān, nikī-mōsihtānān kā-sākāstēk, nikī-wāpahtēnān kā-pahkisimok.
nikī-sākihiwānān mīna nikī-sākihikawinān, māka ēkwa nipimisininān
ōta Flanders yikwahaskānihk.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

kiyawāw ēkwa naskwāhihkok kinōtinākaniminawak
ē-kī-sākōcihikoyāhkik, kitāsōnamātinān
iskotēw; ohpinamok ēkwa kiyawāw.
kīspin ānwēhtawiyāhki niyanān kā-nakataskēyāhk,
namwāc nika-aywēpinān, āta ē-ohpikiki wāpikwaniya
ōta Flanders yikwahaskānihk.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

First published here November 2013.

Update November 2015: Vocabulary to accompany this poem, courtesy of Neal McLeod:

vocabulary for “In Flanders Fields”

yikwâshaskân. field [also kistikan. field]
wêpâstan. to be thrown about by the wind
wâpikwaniya. flowers
tastawâyihk. between
pimitâskwahikan. cross [also miywâhtik]
nîpitê. to be a row
kiskinawâcihtâ. to mark, to point
pimisini. to lay down
mâka. but, and
kîsik. sky
aniki. those ones
sôhkê. preverb, strongly loud
nikamo. to sing
piyêsîs. bird
pimihâ. to fly
êtataw. scarce, barely
pêhtakosiwi. to be heard
iyikokohk. until, up to
matwêwê. for a gun to sound
askiy. earth, ground, dirt
onakastaskêwak. the ones who have left the earth [nakast- leave, askiy. earth], the dead
niyanân. us, we
namôya. not
kayâs. a long time ago
kî. past tense marker
pimâtisi. to live
môsihtâ. to feel, to sense
sâkâstê. to come into view
wâpahta. to see something
kâ-pahkisimok. sunset
sâkihiw. to love
mîna. and
sâkihikawi. to be loved
ôta. here
kiyawâw. you
êkwa. and
naskwâhih. *need to think of a proper translation for this word
nôtinâkan. foe [someone who one fights]
sâkôcih. to defeat, to overcome someone
âsônam. to put one’s hands out to receive an offering, to receive something by hand
iskôtêw. fire [torch]
ohpinam. to hold something high by hand
kîspin. if
ânwêhtawi. to break faith
namwâc. no, not
aywêpi. to rest
âta. although
ohpik. to grow

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Facebook (Facebook!) launches Youth Safety Guide in Cree

Michael Champagne Thinking Safety in Cree

Michael Champagne Thinking Safety in Cree

Amidst all the excitement of this CBC news story  (and more genuinely deserved acknowledgement of the wonderful Michael Champagne), it took a little work to locate the real goods. One new (potential) motto of the Cree Literacy Network: “Show me the Cree!” (I need somebody’s help to translate!)

Here is Mediasmart’s own announcement of the multilingual resources:


Here is the link to the APTN-produced Cree language resources:

The Guide: http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/pdfs/tipsheet/think-before-you-share_guide-cree.pdf

The Poster: http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/pdfs/think-before-you-share_poster-cree.pdf

(I notice that this translation is in the n-dialect (Swampy Cree, Mushkegowak) as spoken in Manitoba. The long vowels using the acute accent are a style mark I know through CLN board member Ken Paupanekis, a master speaker and teacher of the n-dialect at University College of the North and University of Manitoba).

I may be mistaken, but I think this is the English “Think Before you Share!” piece on which the piece is based:


And you can even download guidebooks and posters:

Some additional pieces I found about this resource:

1: Via Shaneen Robinson at APTN:


2. At Nationtalk.ca:

New tools for Aboriginal youth for making good decisions about sharing online

Today, Facebook, MediaSmarts and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)N released a series of newly translated guides for Aboriginal teens, which provide tips for sharing and making decisions online. The Think Before You Share guides were released in Winnipeg during the opening of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

Like most young Canadians, Aboriginal youth rely on social media to keep in touch with family, friends and their broader communities. In remote areas, social networking is an especially important platform for communication. Young people depend on these networks for sharing, whether it’s their thoughts, photos or their latest favourite video.

In MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) study we looked carefully at the habits and attitudes youth have towards sharing things online, as well as their worries, bad experiences and strategies for avoiding problems and fixing things when they go wrong. Our findings, along with the best international research on how youth share and make decisions online, provided the basis for a guide developed in 2013 by MediaSmarts and Facebook. The Think Before You Share guide has since been translated into over a dozen languages and released in Singapore, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, UK, and India.

To help Aboriginal teens make smart decisions when sharing online, Facebook, MediaSmarts and APTN partnered to translate the Think Before You Share guide into three common Aboriginal languages: Ojibwe, Creeand Inuktitut. The new resources are freely available on the Facebook Family Safety Center, MediaSmarts andATPN websites.

The guides offer teens advice on safe, wise and ethical online behaviour. Research shows young people prefer to deal with online issues socially, rather than relying on technological tools. That’s why the guides recommend dealing with unwanted sharing by talking to the person responsible offline. They also give young people tips for dealing with “hot” emotional states like anger or excitement that can lead to making bad choices about sharing things online, and remind them to turn to friends, family and other trusted people in their lives for support if things go wrong.

Young people want to make good decisions about sharing online. With the Think Before You Share guides they have the tools they need to do just that.


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Cree Code Talker Documentary


charles-checker-tomkinsFrom CBC:
More than 70 years after Charles ‘Checker’ Tomkins served in the Second World War, his once top-secret story is being brought to life in a documentary film. Film director Alexandra Lazarowich is making a 10-minute documentary about Second World War ‘code talker’ Charles ‘Checker’ Tomkins.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/cree-language-used-as-secret-weapon-in-wwii-1.3150324?cmp=abfb


Also: Cree Code Talkers

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A chapter in Cree history from Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix: “History Matters: ‘My people made war gently'”

On the morning of May 26, 1885, Cree Chief Poundmaker proudly led his people into Battleford under a white flag of truce to meet with Gen. Frederick Middleton, commander of the North-West Field Force. Photograph by: Supplied photo , courtesy Library and Archives Canada

On the morning of May 26, 1885, Cree Chief Poundmaker proudly led his people into Battleford under a white flag of truce to meet with Gen. Frederick Middleton, commander of the North-West Field Force.
Photograph by: Supplied photo , courtesy Library and Archives Canada

Bill Waiser, Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix, 27 October 2015. Shared via embedded link.

On the morning of May 26, 1885, Cree Chief Poundmaker proudly led his people into Battleford under a white flag of truce to meet with Gen. Frederick Middleton, commander of the North-West Field Force. After surrendering their weapons at Middleton’s insistence as proof of their unconditional submission, the chief and his people gathered in a large semicircle at the feet of the general, who looked down upon them from his chair.

Source: History Matters: ‘My people made war gently’

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Shannon Koostachin Monument Unveiled at New Liskeard



Congratulations to Jules Koostachin who headed the memorial project on seeing this vision realized. Listen to Jules on CBC radio talking about the change that Shannen didn’t get to see, but that others continue to pursue in her memory:


From Muskrat Magazine, 27 October 2015:

Sculpture by Tyler Fauvelle
569 Main Street
Lively, Ontario, P3Y 1M9

For Immediate Release – October 27, 2015

Sudbury Artist Unveils Sculpture Honouring Shannen Koostachin 
Public art commemorates Cree youth who led the struggle for a new school in Attawapiskat

SUDBURY, Ontario – A monument commemorating Shannen Koostachin, a young Cree activist from Attawapiskat First Nation, was unveiled on October 24th at the New Liskeard, Ontario waterfront.  Koostachin led the struggle for a new school in Attawapiskat, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

Tyler Fauvelle, a professional sculptor based in Sudbury, Ontario, created the figurative bronze sculpture, which depicts Shannen dancing in traditional regalia, and features symbols reflecting her Cree heritage.  (www.tylerfauvelle.ca)  Jules Arita Koostachin, multi-media artist and a relative of Shannen’s, led the commemorative project, which included installing butterfly benches near the monument, and the production of a short documentary film.  Kenneth (Jake) Chakasim, lecturer with the Laurentian University School of Architecture, and Rick Miller, an accomplished Canadian photographer and videographer, were part of the project team.

When the only elementary school in Attawapiskat was condemned, and replaced with portable trailers that were cold and mice-infested, Shannen Koostachin led the youth-driven Attawapiskat School Campaign, persistently advocating for a “safe and comfy” school.  The students eventually succeeded, but Shannen didn’t live to see it – she was fifteen years old when her life suddenly ended in a motor vehicle accident in 2010.  Family, friends and community started Shannen’s Dream, a campaign for decent schools for all First Nations children across Canada, and for quality, culturally-based education.

On October 24th, Shannen’s family joined friends and dignitaries to honour and lovingly remember Koostachin.  Among the dignitaries were Theresa Spence (former Chief of Attawapiskat First Nation), Charlie Angus (MP), and Carman Kidd (Mayor of Temiskaming Shores).  The solemn event included a traditional blessing, and smudge ceremony.

“I’ve attended several unveilings of my work,” said Fauvelle, “but this one was different. When the bronze of Shannen was unveiled, there wasn’t a sound. No one spoke. Then, I saw all the tears, and the quiet smiles. It was an emotional reminder that this proud young activist, admired by so many, had also been a daughter, a sister, a friend.”

Fauvelle sculpts in clay, and casts his work in bronze.  His public art includes commemorations of the Wendat people, John Graves Simcoe, famous prospectors of the Porcupine gold rush, Ukrainian cultural hero Taras Shevchenko, and Canadian folk/country singer, Stompin’ Tom Connors.  He is currently working on a life-sized bronze of Francis Pegahmagabow, the most highly-decorated First Nations soldier in Canadian history.

(Photo credit: Tyler Fauvelle)

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Diving to locate mistasiny on CBC’s As It Happens

Though blown up and sitting under 21m of water in Lake Diefenbaker, Mastaseni is still considered to be sacred (Photo:THE DIVING CENTER, SASKATOON)

Though blown up and sitting under 21m of water in Lake Diefenbaker, Mastaseni is still considered to be sacred (Photo:THE DIVING CENTER, SASKATO”ON)

“For hundreds of years, the site – a giant boulder known in Cree as mistasiniy marked a sacred meeting place in southern Saskatchewan. In 1966, government works blew it up. It stood in the path of a man-made lake that was to be created by a dam.

This isn’t just a piece of history. This site still is consecrated ground.”


The location of this sacred stone is among the sacred sites that Tyrone Tootoosis shared here  some time ago. His list and his photos can be found at http://creeliteracy.org/2014/04/28/cree-sacred-sites-tyrone-tootoosis/

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First Nations Healing Workshop, North Battleford, August 2015

IMG_3218Sincere thanks to David MacKinnon, Tyrone Tootoosis, and everyone they assembled in North Battleford to present this wonderful gift of traditional knowledge. The tachings of Jerry Saddleback and Wes Fineday made an inspirational morning; Michelle Good and Kim Tootoosis gave us a heartfelt afternoon.

I was thrilled to have so many far-flung friends assembled in one place with such a  powerful purpose, building optimism for the future of First Nations people. Thanks to Nadine McDougall for making the journey with me from Winnipeg, to Elaine Greyeyes for taking such good care of us in Saskatoon. To Dolores Sand, whose position as “Creecher” is always at the ready. To Dorothy Thunder, Roxanne Tootoosis and Pearleen Baptiste for coming from Edmonton: I only wish we could have had more time to visit (when I wasn’t running around delivering easels, looking for my car, or hunting for my keys!)

Best of all – for the Cree Literacy Network – was the opportunity to unveil  paintings that Dawn Marie Marchand has just completed – with the sponsorship of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts – to illustrate a pre-contact text collected by the late Donna Paskemin from her late father, Myron. Many thanks to David MacKinnon for allowing us to share the paintings at the workshop,  to Leah Garven of the Allen Sapp and Chapel Galleries for helping us out withe the loan of easels, and to Amanda Foster of the North Battleford Public Library for allowing us to overtake her foyer for the day! Looking forward to sharing more news about this project as it edges towards publication!

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