A Call to Action to the Government of Canada by participants in #ANVILS16

ANVILSMembers of the Cree Literacy Network joined a group of about 150 academic and community language advocates at the University of Alberta this past weekend for preliminary talks about A National Vision for Indigenous Language Sustainability. One important outcome of that meeting is a Call to Action – in petition form – drafted at the end of the meeting by Skeetchestn Chief Ron Ignace and others. In calling for adequate funding for revitalization of Indigenous languages, the petition echoes the sentiment repeated at the meetings that restorative funding really ought to be equivalent to the funding that attempted to destroy the languages in the first place. Continue reading

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All About Colours in Cree

paint_colours_creative_commonsnanâtohkinâkwan masinahikan: This [blog post] has many colours

In English, we learn to name our colours just as we name shapes or animals. Cree works differently. Just as French divides its nouns into “masculine” and “feminine” (and calls that system “gender”), Cree uses gender to divide its nouns into “animate” and “inanimate” groups.* But Cree doesn’t stop at nouns. In Cree, verbs must also change their shape to match the gender of associated nouns. And if a noun is plural, the colour verb must be plural too. Because colour words in Cree are verbs, we need to learn both animate and inanimate forms for every colour, and we need to know whether each noun is animate or inanimate.**

Another way of expressing colour in Cree attaches a special form of the colour word as a prefix to a noun. This happens in special cases where the colour is not just a description, but an important part of the noun itself.

The chart below lists basic colours in each of these three forms. Plural forms are created by adding the suffixes shown in brackets.

Cree Colour Terms

prefix form animate verb form(s) inanimate verb form(s)
wâpiski- wâpiskisiw(ak) wâpiskâw(a)
kaskitêwi- kaskitêsiw(ak) kaskitêwâw(a)
mihko- mihkosiw(ak) mihkwâw(a)
kaskitê-osâwi- kaskitê-osâwisiw(ak) kaskitê-osâwâw(a)
osâwi- osâwisiw(ak) osâwâw(a)
wâposâwi- wâposâwisiw(ak) wâposâwâw(a)
askihtako- askihtakosiw(ak) askihtakwâw(a)
sîpihko- sîpihkosiw(ak) sîpihkwâw(a)
cîpêhtako- cîpêhtakosiw(ak) cîpêhtakwâw(a)
nipâmâyâtisi- nîpâmâyâtisiw(ak) nîpâmâyâtân(wa)
wâpikwanîwinâkosi- wâpikwanîwinâkosiw(ak) wâpikwanîwinâkwan(wa)

In many cultures, people also divide the rainbow differently than we do as speakers of English.

In Cree, speakers may use the word osâwi– for yellow, orange or brown. They may use the word sîpihko– for blue, green, or grey. They may also create new colour words – just as we do in English – by combining the colour words from the chart with each other, or by modifying them with wâpi- (meaning ‘bright’ or ‘light’), and kaskitê- (meaning ‘dark’ or ‘black’).

If you talk to other speakers of Cree, they may use different terms, or combinations of terms from the ones we use here, that are still correct. The colour words used in this chart were selected by one particular speaker on one particular day: on a different day, even he may have chosen differently.

*The Gift of Language and Culture at Onion Lake provides separate lessons for animate and inanimate colour terms, in material developed by Leda Corrigal. A Youtube video from Moberley Lake (featuring the one and only Art Napoleon as Joe-Louis) teaches a great song for inanimate colour terms. But remember: these terms in the song only work for items that are inanimate and singular!

**This explanation of colours was developed by members of the Cree Literacy Network as introductory text for the Julie Flett’s new board book Black Bear, Red Fox: Colours in Cree coming out in 2016 from Native Northwest (ordering details to be supplied as soon as they are available). Click here to view her counting board book, We All Count – also with introductory text prepared by the Cree Literacy Network: http://www.nativenorthwestselect.com/products/boardbook-flett-allcount-cree

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nêhiyaw pimâtisiwin comes to Hawai’i – NAISA 2016

It was a great honour to travel to Honolulu in May as cheerleader for the nêhiyaw pimâtisiwin /‘Living the Cree Way’ panel at the 2016 Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) conference, hosted this year by the University of Hawai’i. (And do some genuine Cree language advocacy work in the process!)

The panel, chaired by Jodi Stonehouse (University of Alberta) included:

  • Dorothy Thunder (UofA) : Teaching nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Language Classes
  • Roxanne Tootoosis (UofA): A Narrative Inquiry with Aboriginal Women Who Have Experienced Perinatal Loss
  • Marcus Pahtayken (Blue Quills): Cree Language Revitalization

Here (at last) are a few photos from their presentation.

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Google Mapping for Oral History

Dr. Brian Thom, UVic anthropologist and key indigenous leader with Google Earth Outreach, speaks with Stz'uminus First Nation elder Ray Harris near Ladysmith, B.C., on May 29, 2014, about how they can map their territories using Google Earth. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

Dr. Brian Thom, UVic anthropologist and key indigenous leader with Google Earth Outreach, speaks with Stz’uminus First Nation elder Ray Harris near Ladysmith, B.C., on May 29, 2014, about how they can map their territories using Google Earth. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

This Globe and Mail article features Stz’uminus elder Ray Harris along with Brian Thom, a UVic anthropologist and Google mapping specialist. Continue reading

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Visiting CILLDI

I feel truly honoured to be in Edmonton this weekend – and to have had a chance this week to sit in at CILLDI on the Cree immersion course. Hay-hay, Dorothy Thunder, and all the students, including Angela Essen. One of the assignments given to the students was to work with Julie Flett’s beautiful book, Wild Berries, that introduces some Cree vocabulary. Dorothy and the students are working together to complete a translation into Plains Cree. The class will present the story as a play – in Cree – at the annual CILLDI banquet. And if we’re all really lucky, maybe we’ll have a new edition for Julie to propose to her publisher!


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2016: paskowipîsim / ᐸᐢᑯᐏᐲᓯᒼ / July




Thanks to Solomon Ratt for allowing the Cree Literacy Network to share his 2016 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 a complete pdf is included here:  2016Calendar.

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Solomon Ratt: Beauty Way (y-dialect)

beautymooncentre1Photograph and translation into Cree by Solomon Ratt from the traditional Navajo verse.

katawasisiwinihk nipimohtânIn beauty I walk
asici katawasisiwin maywês nipimohtânWith beauty before me I walk
asici katawasisiwin otânâhk nipimohtânWith beauty behind me I walk
asici katawasisiwin ispimihk nipimohtânWith beauty above me I walk
asici katawasisiwin wâsakâm nipimohtânWith beauty around me I walk
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Powwow Regalia Vocabulary

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for providing Cree vocabulary (in text and audio) to accompany this set of images gathered by Alan Corbiere for Anishinaabemowin (https://quizlet.com/85421294/pow-wow-regalia-flash-cards/). These are Sols terms to parallel Alan’s – but Sol says he’s from up north, not from ordinary powwow territory, so some of his terms may differ. He and I would both love to hear alternative terms from other speakers.

As well as comparing the words that are similar, it’s interesting to see how animacy differs between the Nêhiyawêwin and Anishinaabemowin. You can go through the gallery at your own speed, or follow along with Solomon’s audio (which includes the English terms, in case you’re uncertain!)

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#IndigenousReads in Cree: Emma Minde


Thanks to Les Skinner of Edmonton for permission to post his comments in Cree about this beautiful book of Emma Minde’s stories, lovingly prepared by H.C. Wolfart and the late Freda Ahenakew and published by University of Alberta Press in 1997.

wîpac niwî-itohtân waskêcosihk ê-kiyokêyân . nikiskêyihtên ka-nêhiyawêcik mihcêt ayisiyiniwak êkotê, êkosi nititêyihtên apisîs ê-wî-nêhiyaw-ayamihcikêyân ta-miyo-kiskisiyân ôma kipîkiskwêwininaw. êkosi ôma masinahikan Emma Minde kâ-âcimot nitotinên, êkwa wahwâ nimâmaskâtên iyikohk kâ-nihtâ-nêhiyawêt, apisîs piko ninisitohtên ê-ayamihtâyân .

 Soon I’ll be going visiting in Little Pine. I know many people speak Cree there, so I thought I’d read a bit of Cree to remember our language well. So I take this book when Emma Minde is telling stories, and wow I’m surprised how well she speaks Cree, I only understood a little bit!

miywâsin ôma kipîkiskwêwininaw   #IndigenousReadsIR

* With thanks to Arok Wolvengrey & Jean Okimâsis for editorial help!

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From Wayne Jackson on National Aboriginal Day


From Wayne Jackson, who teaches Cree at University of Blue Quills:

ka-wî-miyo-nêhiyawi-kîsikanisinâwâw (tahto-kîsikâw, ayisk namôya wîhkâc ka-pôni-nêhiyawânaw)

May y’all have a Happy Aboriginal Day (every day, because we’ll never stop being who we are) 😀

Special thanks and good wishes to every one of you Creechers (and students!) out there, working hard to keep the language alive.

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