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/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Naskapi Stories and Legends

A beautiful new piece of work from the northeastern stretch of the Cree dialect continuum made its way to print earlier this year. It’s difficult to describe how much work – and love – goes into a project like this. Heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved: elder John Peastitute, Marguerite MacKenzie, Julie Brittain, Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz (who have been devoted to that community for years), and to their daughter Elizabeth for the beautiful illustrations. Congratulations to the Naskapi Development Corporation for their role in bringing out their third book of this kind: the Cree Literacy Network looks forward to the day they can match your record!

The book is available from http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/naskapi


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neal McLeod’s Cree Place Names

The other day, Neal McLeod invited his FaceBook friends to share photos of their home communities, offering to post them along with the community names in Cree.

Since I was just lucky enough to attend this year’s Indigenous Mapping Workshop in Waterloo, Ontario (hosted by Chiefs of Ontario, Firelight Group and Google Canada), I offered to take Neal’s  project one little step further, connecting the photos and place names on a Google-based, interactive map. Just because it’s fun!

I’d sure love to see this little project grow.

You can help by sending in a photo of your home community – or a favourite place – and its current official place name. I need the current place name to look up the position for the pin on the map. But I can add in your photo and Cree place name if you send it. And if you’re not sure about spelling? That’s okay – just do your best, and Neal and I will do our best too to render it in SRO and syllabics.

Got a story or a reflection about your community or favourite place? Please add that too: I’d love to create a map that shows a genuine sense of community!

(Afterthought: And since the photos are so gorgeous, I’m going to gather them in a gallery that you can view below the map. Thanks all for your participation!)

Click here and send me an email.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sagkeeng Hosts Cree and Ojibwe Classes, August 2015


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Tyrone Tootoosis shares FSI Photos

Thanks to Tyrone Tootoosis for permission to share this collection of photographs from the early days of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians. For Tyrone this political history is also personal, since a great of the history of what is now the FSIN is outlined in detail in the biography of his grandfather, the late Senator John B. Tootoosis. His eldest grandchild, Tyrone is the eldest son of John B’s eldest son, Wilfred Tootoosis.

The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan gives a brief biography at

The 1982 biography, edited by Norma Goodwill and Jean Sluman, is based on recordings of the old man himself, in Cree. Originally published by Golden Dog, it was later reprinted by Pemmican in 1984 and 1987.

Photos are captioned where captions were provided by Tyrone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Indigenous Mapping Workshop, 2015


I feel so privileged to be in Kitchener this week at Google Canada Headquarters for the Indigenous Mapping Workshop hosted by Chiefs of Ontario, The Firelight Group and Google Outreach. And I’m grateful to my colleagues in the People of the Moose River Basin Historic Text and Mapping project for sending me, along with my Moose Factory colleague, Billy Isaac. It’s exciting to see so many people who are passionate about mapping traditional land use and traditional knowledge. This morning I felt even luckier to meet Shauna Morgan Siegers – who studied Cree at UofM with the late Freda Ahenakew, and her colleague Amanda Karst from Lebret, Saskatchewan (whose granny is a 97-year-old speaker of Métchif). Steve DeRoy, on the right, is one of our hosts, a co-founder of the Firelight Group, and a member of Manitoba’s Anishinaabe/Saulteaux Ebb and Flow First Nation. (Oh, and we’ve been meeting here in Google’s Darth Vader Room – I wonder what he paid for naming rights!)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment