Bridging Communities: ê-âsokanîstamowâyahkik ihtâwina

I’m feeling very proud today, after bringing one set of old friends (Solomon Ratt and Arok Wolvengrey) to meet another set of old friends (members and friends of Editors Canada). Taking part in the 2018 Editors Canada Conference in Saskatoon, and seeing new connections begin to take shape was a genuine privilege, so I’m sharing a few photos here in celebration. 

The conference’s opening reception featured a welcome and prayer by Métchif-speaking elder Norman Fleury (who has lent his time and patience to three doctoral dissertations about the Métchif language), followed by first class fiddling and jigging by Tristen Durocher of LaRonge, accompanying the Creeland Dancers from Beardy’s and Okimâsis (led by cousins Amy and Kevin Seeseequasis). 

I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo with Sol before he got away, but I did manage to catch him in his office at First Nations University where I visited him on Thursday. Our joint presentation was titled “Translating English into Cree: Not Just Lip Service,” and we were followed by Arok’s presentation titled “Standardization of an Indigenous Language: Orthography and Editing Practices.” I look forward to sharing the PowerPoint slides from both presentations in the very near future. 

First Nations University, Regina

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Mansil Fiddler’s First Nation YouTube Song Challenge

When I was visiting Solomon Ratt today in his FNU office, Mansil Fiddler from Waterhen  dropped by to tell Sol about the First Nation YouTube Song Challenge he’s extending all across the prairies. Mansil (also known as Medicine Dog) is a Cree language learner who has decided to use music to help himself and others reclaim their language one bite at a time (sort of like eating an elephant!) 

Here’s the video he let me record to show everyone that it doesn’t need to be difficult. I think he’s got definite star power: I hope others will take up his challenge! 

Mansil has a number of great examples on his Medicine Dog YouTube channel, but he sang his coffee song for us: 

pihkahtêwâpoy (x5) aha
miywâsin ôma (x2) 
pihkahtêwâpoy ahca!
miywâsin ôma (x2) 

Here’s the challenge that he gave to Sol and me:  

I challenge you and everyone in a FRIENDLY MANNER to sing in your Native language in any style of music on the list at

No Powwow, no Round Dance or Traditional songs – but it has to be sung in your Native tongue. It does not have to be perfect as long as it is appropriate, even if you only know a couple of words that’s fine. 

Mansil is asking participants to make a video, put it on YouTube, and send him the link. You can contact him by leaving a message on one of his videos, or email him at (and let him know you’re going to send a song!) 

He wants to find a champion from each reserve in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta – and from all nations that are willing. He says his true intent is to make First Nation languages necessary in our day-to-day lives. His next list updates will be 30 April and 31 May. And he’s planning to run a new challenge each month. 

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Native Language Programs: What they Need

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Thank you to Cree Literacy Network board member Ken Paupanekis for sharing this conference paper from 2007 that reflects on what a successful Native language program needs. As a first-language speaker of Cree, Ken’s extensive experience includes teaching, school and … Continue reading

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Making things smaller: About Diminutives

Still from 1957 B-movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man

Thanks to Elyse McKenna and Arok Wolvengrey for letting me share their recent FaceBook exchange in the Nêyihawêwin (Cree) Word/Phrase of the Day Group about making diminutive forms out of ordinary nouns to describe smaller- (or younger-) than-ordinary things. Depending on context, diminutive forms can also be either affectionate or belittling. (Think “my cute little…” or “my poor little old…”) 

Elyse wanted to know: “Do I just add ‘is’ to a noun when I am speaking about something that is smaller than usual? Is there a rule or way to know when to use ‘is’ or ‘isis’?” 

Arok’s response (which suggests it’s simpler in the movies) runs through the details: 

  • Most nouns add –is, but some might double that as –isis.
    (e.g. sâkahikan “lake”; sâkahikanis “small lake”, sâkahikanisis “pond”)
  • is is the usual form. Doubling it is often used for young people or animals as opposed to just size, or it can be an especially small version of something.
  • Some nouns, you will have to add –os or –osis
    (e.g. apiwikamik “living room”, apiwikamikos “small living room, small sitting room”)
  • If a noun ends in a combination of vowel plus w or y (i.e. Vw or Vy), then you make the vowel long (if it isn’t already), drop the w or y, and add –s (or –sis)
    (e.g. mêskanaw “road”, mêskanâs “trail, path”)
    (e.g. nâpêw “man”, nâpêsis “boy”; iskwêw “woman”, iskwêsis “girl”)
  • And a very few are even more complicated: you have to drop a final vowel and add –is(is) or drop a final –wa and add os(is).
    (e.g. niska “goose”, niskisis “gosling”: maskwa “bear”, maskosis “bear cub”)
  • And to top it all off, if there is a t sound in the original, this changes to c ([ts] or [ch]) in the diminutive.
    (e.g. têhtapiwin “chair” > cêhcapiwinis “small chair”)
    (e.g. atim “dog” > acimosis “puppy”)
    (e.g. nisit “my foot” > nisicis “my little foot”)

When you’re ready for even more examples (and details), you might like to read David Pentland’s 1975 Algonquian Conference paper, “Diminutive Consonant Symbolism in Algonquian” (thanks to Jila Ghomeshi for the reminder!) 

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Use your voice – Poster (y-dialect)

Thanks to Pearleen Kanewapasikot for sharing both the words and image to create this poster for users to print and enjoy. Thanks to Solomon Ratt, too, for editorial help!
Click here to download image as pdf

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Pearleen Kanewopasikot: Why Language is Important

Thank you, Pearleen Kanewopasikot, for sharing this interview about the importance of language and culture, and for providing transcription in Cree (so others can read along and learn)! I hope we can encourage you to try even more transcription in the near future. Fully-fluent first-language Cree speakers are precious and rare: when they share in their language, we can all learn a lot! kinanâskomitin: I am grateful to you! 

Mētoni nīsta nimīyowēyitēn ōta ē-pēwīciwēyan, iskwēwak ōki māna ēmāmiskōtākik pōko kikway, ēkwa ē-sīhtoskatōwak, aya, kakwē-kiskinōhāmāsōya, ēkwa kahkiyaw nitatoskanan mīna, ēkwa ēkiskinohāmakēya mihcēt.

Waskacōsihk ohci ōma nīya. Askihtakiw Pīyēsiw Iskwēw nitsi-nēhiyawihkason.

I am very happy to be part of this group, the women speak of many different things. We support each other as we continue with higher education, and we are all working and many of us are teaching.

I am from Little Pine First Nation. My ceremonial name is Blue Thunderbird Woman.

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Some Minimal Pairs from Solomon Ratt – With Audio

Another miniminal pair from Solomon: tânisi nîci-môs - hello my fellow moose; tânisi nîcimos - hello, my sweetheart

Another miniminal pair from Solomon: tânisi nîci-môs – ᑖᓂᓯ ᓃᒋ ᒨᐢ hello my fellow moose; tânisi nîcimos – ᑖᓂᓯ ᓃᒋᒧᐢ hello, my sweetheart

This great collection of minimal pairs from Solomon Ratt brings together words in Cree that differ by only one sound, some of which are commonly confused. It’s hard to elieve it originally appeared in 2013. We’re re-releasing it to include some new th-dialect examples. 

Minimal pairs allow us to confirm for ourselves which sounds can change the meaning of words. These distinctive sounds are called “phonemes”. Both SRO and the syllabic writing system are based on the phonemes of Cree: that is, only those language sounds that can make a difference to the meaning of a given word.

And if you think that marking vowel length doesn’t matter in Syllabics, you’d better have another look!

English is loaded with minimal pairs, like these:

  • pat – bat
  • fit – sit
  • fat – fit
  • pot – pit

In Cree, the most common minimal pairs (or sets) are those that appear in pronouns, or in verb sets. In these cases, the first sound in each set makes the difference between first, second and third person (niya, kiya, wiya):

May 2018: Sol finally coughs up a ruder example from th-dialect: 

Short i vs long î
misi – ᒥᓯ big
mîsî – ᒦᓰ take a shit
misi-mîsî – ᒥᓯᒦᓰ  take a big shit.

misihîw – she/he gets someone in trouble (th-dialect)
misihêw – she/he gets someone in trouble (y-dialect) 
mîsîhîw – she/he makes someone shit (th-dialect) 
mîsîhêw – she/he makes someone shit (y-dialect) 
misihêw – turkey (y-dialect!) 
misihthîw – turkey (th-dialect!)

And today’s winner in the minimal pair championship: 

misihêw misihêw, mêtoni misi-mîsîhêw. – The turkey gets him in trouble, so much so he made him shit lots. (y-dialect) 

misithîw misihîw, mitoni misi-mîsîhîw. – The turkey gets him in trouble, so much so he made him shit lots. (th-dialect) 

Cree spelling: kiyâm nâ? – It doesn’t matter? namôtha kiyâm! – It matters! 

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Spring Bike Rides: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect, video)

ispîhk mâna kâ-sîkwahk, wîpac ê-kîskisêpâk, kâ-nikotwâso-kîsikâk, nipapâmi-tihtipiskên cihcipayapisikanis. wahyaw mâna nikakwê-papâmi-tihtipiskên cihcipayapisikanis. kîspin êkâ mistahi sôhkiyowêki nêwosâp cipahaskânis mâna nitihtipiskên cihcipayapisikanis, sâkahikanisihk isi, êkwa kâwi ta-kîwê-hiskamân, mâmawi, nîsitanaw ayênânêwosâp cipahaskânis ê-papâmi-tihtipiskamân cihcipayapisikanis. ispîhk sôhkiyowêki namôya mâna wahyaw nitisi-têhtapin. têpiyahk aciyaw mâna nipapâmi-tihtipiskên cihcipayapisikanis ispîhk kâ-sôhkiyowêk. âskaw mâna mistahi sôhkiyowêw ôta maskotêhk.

nicihkêyihtên ta-papâmi-tihtipiskamân cihcipayapisikanis ispîhk kâ-sîkwahk. ispîhk mâna kâ-papâmipayiyân niwâpamâwak nanâtohk piyêsîsak: cahcahkâyosak, cahcahkiwak, niskak, âhâsiwak, êkwa nanâtohk sîsîpak. acimosihkânisak mîna niwâpamâwak ispîhk kâ-ati-sâkipakâk. mêtoni miyonâkwan askiy ispîhk kâ-sîkwahk.

When it’s spring, early in the morning, on a Saturday, I like to go riding a bike. I try to ride far on the bike. If it is not too windy I ride 14 kilometers to the small lake, and back home again, I ride the bike for a total of 28 kilometers. When it is very windy I don’t ride far.

I go out riding the bike briefly when it is very windy. Sometimes it gets very windy here on the prairies. I like to ride the bike when it is spring.When I go about I see all sorts of birds: blackbirds, pelicans, geese, crows, and all sorts of ducks. I also see pussy willows when the leaves start to bud. The earth is very beautiful when it is spring.


  • acimosihkânisak – pussy willows (NA)
  • aciyaw – for a shor while
  • âhâsiw – crow
  • âskaw mâna – sometimes, as is usual
  • askiy – earth
  • ati-sâkipakâw – leaves begin to bud
  • ayênânêwosâp – eighteen
  • cahcahkâyos – blackbird
  • cahcahkiw – pelican
  • cihcipayapisikanis – bicycle (NI)
  • cihkêyihta – like s.t. (VTI-1)
  • cipahaskânis – kilometre
  • êkâ – negator for conjunct
  • êkwa – and
  • isi – toward a direction
  • isi-têhtapi – ride in a way (VAI)
  • ispîhk – when
  • kakwê- – try to (PV)
  • kâwi – back
  • kîskisêpâw – it is morning (VII)
  • kîspin – if
  • kîwê-hiska – ride it home (VAI)
  • mâmawi – all together
  • mâna – usually
  • maskotêw – prairie (NI)
  • mêtoni – very
  • mîna – also
  • istahi – a lot
  • miyonâkwan – it looks beautiful (VII)
  • namôya – no
  • nanâtohk – all kinds
  • nêwosâp – fourteen
  • nikotwâso-kîsikâw – it is Saturday (VII)
  • nîsitanaw – twenty
  • niska – goose
  • ôta – here
  • papâmi- – out and about
  • papâmipayi – go out and about (VAI)
  • piyêsîs – bird (NA)
  • sâkahikanis – small lake
  • sîkwan – it is spring
  • sîsîp – duck
  • sôhkiyowêw – it is very windy (VII)
  • têpiyahk – at least
  • tihtipiska – ride s.t. with wheels (VTI-1)
  • wahyaw – far away
  • wâpam – see s.o. (VTA)
  • wîpac – soon, early
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miyo tipiska – Happy birthday!



Birthdays: Everyone’s got one! 

In honour of Mary Cardinal Collins, who is celebrating her birthday today (I think it’s her 29th again), it seems like a good time to gather up some good birthday words in Cree. Give her a hug if you see her; send her a message on Facebook; or, just keep her in mind as you pay the good wishes forward. 

miyo tipiska is a fairly direct translation of the English. 

ka-wî-miyo-tipiskên “may you have a good birthday” is a little gentler. 

If you’d like to sing the traditional birthday song, here is one version in y-dialect (change the y to n or th for other dialects, and you should be ready for anything!) 


A few more useful birthday words in Cree from nêhiyawêwin : itwêwina / Cree : Words

Finally, there are some really great Cree-style birthday songs from Youtube – even if they are sung in English. 

First from Northern Cree (a classic!) 

Not sure who these guys are, but it’s another great birthday song! 


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PhD Thesis Abstract: Full Text (Solomon Ratt)

Aydin Torkabadi uses Cree language books to help translate part of his Industrial Engineering thesis into Cree. (Nichole Huck/CBC )

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for providing the dissertation abstract – both in English and in Cree – for us to study here, and thanks to Aydin Torkabadi for the really thoughtful gesture of respect for First Languages. 

Read the full story here from CBC:

Application of Adaptive Neuro-Fuzzy Inference Systems in Development of Just-In-Time Pull Product Control Policies

Abstract: Just-in-Time manufacturing processes minimize inventory levels through effective control strategies. Pull Production Control Policies (PPCPs) authorize when and where to process, minimizing inventory levels while maximizing order fulfilment. This study investigates the development of PPCPs, by designing authorization mechanisms, measuring their performance, and evaluating alternative policies.

To do so, the research applied analytical, simulation, and intelligent computing methods, and each is examined through implementation in an actual industrial case. Horizontally Integrated Pull Control Policies (HIPCPs), combining the classic Kanban and ConWIP strategies, are proposed here as PPCP alternatives. Discrete event computer simulation techniques are applied to measure the performance of alternatives in a multi-stage and multi-layer manufacturing and assembly system with uncertain parameters. Fuzzy methods are applied to address the uncertainty. The proposed HIPCPs alternatives, together with Kanban and ConWIP, are comparatively evaluated via Fuzzy Analytical Hierarchy Process. Finally, applying intelligent methods, as a novel approach in PPCP development, the evaluation procedure was realized by an Adaptive Neuro-Fuzzy-Inference System (ANFIS) model.

All the three approaches show the effectiveness of HIPCP mechanisms for minimizing the inventory level, lead time, and backlogged orders, and maximizing the responsiveness to actual demand in the studied case. The optimum surface of performance for alternatives based on criteria domain is found.

Keywords: Just-In-Time, Pull Production Control Policies, Intelligent Systems, Adaptive Neuro Fuzzy Inference Systems, Fuzzy Inference Systems, Multi Criteria Decision Making Systems

ka-astâhk itêyihcikan-yôski-mâmitonêyihcikan ita ka-osihtahk ka-nânahitâk-ocipitamihk isihcikêwina ka-tipêyihtamihk oyasiwêwina.

âcimowinis: ka-nânahitâk-ocipitamihk osihtâwina ka-âstamêhk kâ-kanawêyihtamihk kîkwaya ta-tipêyihtamihk. kâ-ocipitamihk tipêyihtamihk oyasiwêwina (PPCP) oyasiwâtamihkk ispî êkwa ita ka-osihtahk, êkosi ka-âstamêhk kâ-kanawêyihtamihk kîkway êkwa êkosi nawac mistahi ka-kîsi-sâkaskinâhtahk itisahamâtowina. ôma nitawâpênikêwin kitâpahtamihk kâ-isi-osihtahk PPCPak nistam ka-osihtahk oyasiwêwina, kâ-ispayiki, êkwa ka-kanawâpahtamihk kotaka oyasiwêwina.

ka-kaskihtâmihk ôma nitawâpênikêwin ê-âpatahk mâmitonêyihtamihk, ê-âh-oyastâhk, êkwa ê-âpacihtahk nanâtohki-masinahikêhk-âpacihcikan êkwa pah-piscihk ê-kitâpahtamihk ita kâ-âpatahki atoskêwinihk. kâ-pimicipayik-ocipicikan-tipêyihcikan wiyasiwêwin (HIPCPs). ê-pawahikêhk kayâs Kanban êkwa ConWIP itôtamowina, pakosêyimohk ôta ka-âpatahki pah-pêtos kîkway âpatahki. kîmôt ê-ispayik mâmitonêyihcikâkan itôtamowina ê-âpacihtahk ka-tipâskahikâhk kâ-isi-ispayiki kotaka âpacihcikana nanâtohk ispayiki êkwa nanâtohk-oshtâhk êkâ kâ-kihcinâhohk. yôski-itôtamowina ka-âpatahki ka-kitâpahtamihk êkâ kâ-kihcinâhohk. kâ-pakosêyimohk HIPCPs pah-pêtos itôtamowina êkwa Kanban êkwa ConWIP mâh-mêskotâpahtamohk êwako ohci yôski-itôtamowina ka-kitâpahtamihk ka-ispastêhk itôtamowin. êkwâni êkwa piyisk, ê-astahk iyinîsiwin itôtamowina, ê-oskâyiwik itôtamowin ka-osihtahk PPCP isihcikêwin, kâ-pê-isi-kitâpahtamihk kî-sâponôkwan ê-âpatahk ê-nahastêk-mâmitonêyihcikan=-yôsi-itôtamowin-isâpahtamihk âpacihckan (ANFIS).

kahkiyaw ôhi nisto kâ-âpatahki ati-kihcinâhohk ê-miyo-ispayik HIPCP pîwâpiskwa ka-nîkastêki kâ-miciminamihk, ka-nîkânastêki, êkwa, kâ-otahk-astêki nitisahamâkêwina, êkwa ê-mâwaci-naskwêwasihêhk kâ-natomihtahk ôta kâ-kitâpahtamahk. kâ-mâwaci-miyo-âpatahk kâ-isi-atoskêhk pah-pêtos kîkwaya ê-tipahamêhk ê-pê-miskamahk.


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