About our Network

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The Cree Literacy Network was created in 2010 to promote Cree language and cultural literacy, through the publication of bilingual books and other literacy materials (in Cree and English) that use Standard Roman Orthography for writing Cree. We believe that Cree language literacy can be learned better and spread farther if everyone uses the same, consistent writing system. We also believe that authentic Cree language materials prepared in translation can promote cultural literacy, even among those who read only English.

Click here to read Eagle Feather News’s October 2010 report about our inaugural event. 

But Cree literacy refers to so much more than just reading. Cree literacy also means awareness of Cree history and culture, living tradition and ancient ritual. It means the understanding of the depth and scope of damage from past wrongs, and the necessity of the fight to see them righted. In these difficult days of the 21st century, it also means being aware of Cree political issues past and present, and working together with others — Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike — to help preserve the “home on Native land” that we all share.

This network is based on a small but determined circle of dedicated speakers, writers, students, teachers and linguists, whose collective commitment to the Cree language spans decades in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. It also includes input from others who are equally committed in other ways to the revitalization of Cree culture in all its forms.

Building on the substantial living legacy created by Honourary Founders, Dr Jean Okimâsis and the late Dr Freda Ahenakew, we hope to contribute to strengthening connections throughout the Cree-speaking communities of the prairies, and offer meaningful support to those who share our passion for retention and revitalization of the Cree language (in spoken and written form), and of Cree culture. not just the survival, but the revival and flourishing of the language in spoken and written form, working as it should within a vibrant and flourishing culture.

What is Standard Roman Orthography?
Standard Roman Orthography, or SRO as it is also known, is a system of spelling that uses Roman letters (that is, the letters of English alphabet), with a few modifications, to represent Cree language sounds. SRO is unique among the presently available systems of writing Cree because of its consistent (that is, “standard”) approach to spelling.

Consistent spelling – writing the same word the same way every time – is an essential building block in developing truly fluent reading skills in any language. SRO is also the spelling system that is mostly widely used for print publications in Cree, and has the greatest number of published reference resources. As of 2010, SRO is taught and used in a Cree language programs in schools, colleges and universities across the prairies.

The Cree Literacy Network seeks to build on this solid, tested foundation by increasing awareness of SRO, and using it as widely as possible to help carry the Cree language – and with it, Cree culture – forward into the 21st century.

What about Syllabics?
Whether you believe syllabics were invented by the Methodist missionary James Evans in the 1840s, or that syllabics was a gift directly from the Creator to the Cree people, educational research shows that syllabics is neither better nor worse than SRO for reading and writing Cree. Some research even shows that it may be easier for beginners to read. Perhaps this is why syllabic literacy spread so quickly following publication of the first syllabic bible.

Although many Cree speakers learned to read and write in syllabics, and a few of their handwritten documents and journals have been preserved, the printing presses remained within the hands of the churches, where they were used almost exclusively to print prayer books and hymnals. Today, special computer software makes syllabics more available on computers and smart phones, but it still takes considerable expertise to set them up for ordinary users, and the collection of non-religious reading materials and reference sources remains very small.

Members of the Cree Literacy Network respect and value the efforts of all individuals and communities working to speak or write Cree in any form. We hope to encourage a spirit of cooperation among Cree-speaking communities that will help to fill bookshelves with high quality Cree language material suitable for all readers. We hope those who are committed to syllabic literacy will see our library as a resource that can help support them in preparing publications of their own.

7 Responses to About our Network

  1. tânisi!

    I’ve managed to lose touch with a lot of people in the move from WordPress to a self-hosted site, so I’m individually following up 😀 I’ve set it up so WordPress bloggers can ‘follow’ me in the same way you used to at the new site: http://apihtawikosisan.com/. There’s no need to keep this comment, it was just easier to contact you via the blog. If somehow I’ve overlooked that you’ve already made the switch, you have my apologies.

    kinanâskomitin, and I hope to see you soon!

    • Arden Ogg says:

      Thanks, Chelsea, I appreciate this, and thanks for allowing the re-post of another really good piece.
      I feel lousy about messing up your careful preparation copying, but I can’t replicate it in my layout. I wonder if you might consider a plug-in like JetPack that would let you add a “reblog” button. It should make it easier for others to share and distribute your content too. The feature is built in now on WordPress.com, but self-hosted sites need a plug-in of some sort.

  2. Pingback: Roadblocks to effective indigenous language development | Cree Literacy Network

  3. Charles Mills says:

    It would be nice if SRO (Standard Roman Orthography)was used in the Moosonee area of James Bay in northern Ontario.When I look at written Cree that isn’t written in syllabic form it seems so childish and inconsistent. I just wish we could take lessons on how it is done in western Canada and apply it here. When I asked a school teacher on the Moose Cree First Nation about it I was told that it’s easier to read when it’s spelled out the way it is sounded.

    • Arden Ogg says:

      Thanks for that comment, Charles. People don’t seem to realize that SRO is exactly equivalent to syllabics (and vice versa). Seems to me that’s a big advantage!
      The problem with writing “the way it sounds” is that people tend to use the rules they know from English (which most people agree are kind of crazy at best!). And you really can’t learn to read “fluently” when words don’t look the same way every time.

  4. Annalisa Kolbeck says:

    Hello! I am a school secretary from Green Lake, SK – at St Pascal School. Our school community co-ordinator is trying to reach Dolores Sand, in order to network about Cree music. Would you be able to get Dolores in touch with us?

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