2018: niskipîsim / ᓂᐢᑭᐲᓯᒼ / March

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for allowing the Cree Literacy Network to share his 2018 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:
Y- and Th-Dialect Version: 2018Calendar

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Let’s Speak Cree Together – mâmawi-nêhiyawêmototân 

A great opportunity for Regina residents – and for anyone who can view online streaming via Regina Public Library Facebook page.

What: Cree Language Instruction
When: Thursdays, February 22 – May 10, 2018
Total # of classes: 12 sessions (Weekly classes)
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Where: mâmawêyatitân centre – Multipurpose Room
Live Streaming on Social Media through the Regina Public Library 
Free to public.
All ages welcome.
No registration required.

For more information, email:
Nick Crighton ncrighto@regina.ca
Wendy Sinclair

Posted in Cree Language Classes, In person or Online | Leave a comment

Maskosis Goes to School – New Cree App available online

Thanks to Ramona Washburn for sharing purchase details of this new app from Samson Cree Nation, and congratulations to everyone there who helped with its creation. I can’t wait to try it out!

“Maskosis Goes To School” Cree App by Samson Cree Nation is available for download: a real bargain at $10.00 from:

Maskosis Goes to School by Samson Cree Nation

Take a look at “Maskosis Goes to School”

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Tyrone Tootoosis, Sr. In Memoriam

mahti ka-wî-miyo-pimohtêhow ta-atamiskâkot kahkiyaw kâ-sawêyimikot otâniskôhâkana.

May he journey well and be welcomed with love by the ancestors.*

It’s hard to believe a year has now elapsed since the passing of this passionate and courageous keeper of Cree language and culture. Tyrone Tootoosis, Sr. left us on February 12th, 2017. As his friends and family prepare to feast his memory, we are grateful to acknowledge some of the vast legacy that Tyrone left for us.

Marius Paul, who attended university with Tyrone, passed on to us a Youtube Video that Tyrone created in 2012. The video consists of a collection of archival photos from Tyrone’s personal collection, and a dramatic narration in Cree, all labelled “Poundmaker”.

Although we at the Cree Literacy Network don’t know the precise details that surrounded the creation of this video, several members of our network have worked together to transcribe Tyrone’s words in SRO, and translate them into English. They are presented here along with the video for the benefit of those who would like to hear Tyrone’s voice and read along. A syllabic transliteration of the text also follows, along with a section from Norma Sluman’s 1967 dramatized Poundmaker biography.

We hope through this gesture to pay tribute to Tyrone’s importance as a cultural educator and language keeper. We also hope to help further share Tyrone’s  tribute to his direct ancestor, pîhtokahânapiwiyin (Poundmaker), who was the brother of Tyrone’s own Great-great-grandfather, Yellow Mudblanket. Finally, we also hope to create yet another small tool to support literacy in the Cree language and culture that Tyrone valued as highly as we do.

pêyakwan kiyawâw kâ-kîsi-nôtinikêyêk ôta waciy ispîhk kâ-mâyahkamikahk. mâka kîhtwâm piko âsay mîna ka-nôtinikêyêk, ka-sôhki-nôtinikêyêk, ka-nôtinisoyêk, ôma, mastaw mâmitonêyihcikan; êkâya, êkâya tapahtêyimisoyêk. It’s the same for you all, when you were finished fighting here at the hill [Cutknife] during the Resistance. But already once again you have to fight, you’ll have to fight hard, you’ll have to fight with yourselves, [because of] this new way of thinking: Don’t, don’t think little of yourselves.
môy âyis misawâc êwako tâpwêwin. âta êtikwê, âta misawâc ka-wêhcasin sôskwâc êkâ nânitaw kê-tôtamihk, isko mwâc aya, êkây ka-naskwâhk.Because this at any rate is not the truth. Although I guess, it will be easy just to not do anything, to keep the peace and not retaliate.
k-êtwêhk, “niya, ay-isi-pêyakoyân, namôya nânitaw nika-kî-itôtên.” êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik ayisiyiniwak, êkwa kâ-isi-waskawîcik, koskostâtikwan.It is said: “Me, I’m all by myself, I cannot do anything.” That’s how the people think, and how they spend their lives, in fear.
kikiskêyihtênânaw anima âcimowin: ana nâpêw ê-kisâtapit sisonê mêskanâhk osâm kinwês. kî-ohpikiniyiw. namôya kîhtwâm kî-miskamow mêskanaw. namôya wîhkâc ka-kî-wanikiskisinânaw tânisi ôta ê-pê-ispayik. mâka, namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw. namôya mîna pimicâyihk mêskanâhk ka-kî-ay-apinânaw.We know that story: that man who stays sitting by the trail too long. It becomes overgrown. One can no longer find the trail. We can never forget how it came to pass here. But, we can also not go back. Nor can we sit beside the trail.
kipakitinikowisininaw, kinêhiyaw-pimâtisiwininaw kiskinohtêmakan. mâka namôya ka-kî-sâsakitapiyahk, kwayaskâpawistamahk. namôya mîna ka-kî-môniyâhkâsoyahk.Our gift, our Cree life, is a guide. We cannot just sit back, we must stand up. Neither can we act like Whitemen.
kimâwimoscikêwininaw kêyâpic miywâsin. âtayôhkanak kêyâpic kiwîcihikonawak. nimistêyihtên, nikiskêyihtên. ninêhiyawi-pakitinikowisiwiwin, anohc kêyâpic nisâkihtân, nitayisiyiniw-nêhiyâwiwin, nêhiyaw.Our ceremonies remain good. The spirits still help us. I respect that, I know that. My Cree gift, I still love that today. My being a Cree person. Nêhiyaw.
namôya nânitaw. namôya nânitaw. namôya nânitaw nikî-itôtên.Not anything. Not anything. I didn't do anything.
namôya wîhkâc ka-kî-wanikiskisinânaw tânisi ôta ê-pê-ispayik, namôya nânitaw. êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik ayisiyiniwak.We can never forget how it came to pass here, not ever. That’s how the people think.
namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw. namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw. namôya mîna kika-kî-wâyinînânaw.Nor can we go back. Nor can we go back. Nor can we go back.
êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik, êkos-~, êkos-~, êkosi kâ-isi-mâmitonêyihtahkik.That’s how they think, that ~, that ~, that’s how they think.
ᐯᔭᑿᐣ ᑭᔭᐚᐤ ᑳ ᑮᓯ ᓅᑎᓂᑫᔦᐠ ᐆᑕ ᐘᒋᕀ ᐃᐢᐲᕽ ᑳ ᒫᔭᐦᑲᒥᑲᕽ᙮ ᒫᑲ ᑮᐦᑤᒼ ᐱᑯ ᐋᓴᕀ ᒦᓇ ᑲ ᓅᑎᓂᑫᔦᐠ, ᑲ ᓲᐦᑭ ᓅᑎᓂᑫᔦᐠ, ᑲ ᓅᑎᓂᓱᔦᐠ, ᐆᒪ, ᒪᐢᑕᐤ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᒋᑲᐣ ᐁᑳᔭ, ᐁᑳᔭ ᑕᐸᐦᑌᔨᒥᓱᔦᐠ᙮
ᒨᕀ ᐋᔨᐢ ᒥᓴᐚᐨ ᐁᐘᑯ ᑖᐻᐏᐣ᙮ ᐋᑕ ᐁᑎᑵ, ᐋᑕ ᒥᓴᐚᐨ ᑲ ᐍᐦᒐᓯᐣ ᓲᐢᒁᐨ ᐁᑳ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᑫ ᑑᑕᒥᕽ, ᐃᐢᑯ ᒹᐨ ᐊᔭ ᐁᑳᕀ ᑲ ᓇᐢᒁᕽ᙮
ᑫᑘᕽ, “ᓂᔭ, ᐊᕀ ᐃᓯ ᐯᔭᑯᔮᐣ, ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᓂᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᐣ᙮” ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ ᐊᔨᓯᔨᓂᐘᐠ, ᐁᑿ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᐘᐢᑲᐑᒋᐠ, ᑯᐢᑯᐢᑖᑎᑿᐣ᙮
ᑭᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑌᓈᓇᐤ ᐊᓂᒪ ᐋᒋᒧᐏᐣ : ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᐁ ᑭᓵᑕᐱᐟ ᓯᓱᓀ ᒣᐢᑲᓈᕽ ᐅᓵᒼ ᑭᓊᐢ᙮ ᑮ ᐅᐦᐱᑭᓂᔨᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᑮᐦᑤᒼ ᑮ ᒥᐢᑲᒧᐤ ᒣᐢᑲᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᐑᐦᑳᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐘᓂᑭᐢᑭᓯᓈᓇᐤ ᑖᓂᓯ ᐆᑕ ᐁ ᐯ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᐠ᙮ ᒫᑲ, ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᐱᒥᒑᔨᕽ ᒣᐢᑲᓈᕽ ᑲ ᑮ ᐊᕀ ᐊᐱᓈᓇᐤ᙮
ᑭᐸᑭᑎᓂᑯᐏᓯᓂᓇᐤ, ᑭᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐱᒫᑎᓯᐏᓂᓇᐤ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᑌᒪᑲᐣ᙮ ᒫᑲ ᓇᒨᔭ ᑲ ᑮ ᓵᓴᑭᑕᐱᔭᕽ, ᑿᔭᐢᑳᐸᐏᐢᑕᒪᕽ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑲ ᑮ ᒨᓂᔮᐦᑳᓱᔭᕽ᙮
ᑭᒫᐏᒧᐢᒋᑫᐏᓂᓇᐤ ᑫᔮᐱᐨ ᒥᔼᓯᐣ᙮ ᐋᑕᔫᐦᑲᓇᐠ ᑫᔮᐱᐨ ᑭᐑᒋᐦᐃᑯᓇᐘᐠ᙮ ᓂᒥᐢᑌᔨᐦᑌᐣ, ᓂᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑌᐣ᙮ ᓂᓀᐦᐃᔭᐏ ᐸᑭᑎᓂᑯᐏᓯᐏᐏᐣ, ᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑫᔮᐱᐨ ᓂᓵᑭᐦᑖᐣ, ᓂᑕᔨᓯᔨᓂᐤ ᓀᐦᐃᔮᐏᐏᐣ, ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ᙮
ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᓂᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᐣ᙮
ᓇᒨᔭ ᐑᐦᑳᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐘᓂᑭᐢᑭᓯᓈᓇᐤ ᑖᓂᓯ ᐆᑕ ᐁ ᐯ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᐠ, ᓇᒨᔭ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ᙮ ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ ᐊᔨᓯᔨᓂᐘᐠ᙮
ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮ ᓇᒨᔭ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐚᔨᓃᓈᓇᐤ᙮
ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ, ᐁᑯᐢ~, ᐁᑯᐢ~, ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ᙮

Reviewing the English translation, one member of the CLN observed that the text had an striking resemblance to the phrases often quoted – in English – as the final words of Poundmaker. The source of those words was identified as Norma Sluman’s 1967 biography, which she herself calls a dramatization. While we can’t know what Poundmaker actually said word-for-word in Cree, we do know that, like Norma Sluman, Tyrone had access to oral history about Poundmaker from John B. Tootoosis and all the greatest living authorities. Tyrone would have read the Sluman biography, but would also have heard the story again and again – in Cree – directly from the elders of his home reserve. These versions of the story would certainly have shaped the words he spoke in Cree while portraying Poundmaker in the 1998 television mini-series Big Bear – and perhaps this is the real purpose for which he prepared this audio/video presentation.

From Norma Sluman (1967) Poundmaker. Toronto: Ryerson Press, pages 295-296 (emphasis added to show words attributed to Poundmaker):

“I have been called many bad things since that day with General Middleton, but it was the white men who said such things, not my own people and that is all that has mattered to me. They put chains on me and shut me away, but they did not cut my hair or keep me very long because I think they know in their hearts that I had done nothing wrong. I was sick at heart when I came home for I could see that it all must begin again. The long, long fight for a better life for us in this land that once was ours.”

No one moved or made a sound. Poundmaker was quiet for a while. The people were in the shade and he was standing in the hot sunlight. For a moment he had a strange feeling that he was all alone, then Crowfoot moved a little so he could see them all again. It must be the heat making him so tired. “It would be so much easier just to fold our hands and not make this fight, to say, ‘I, one man, can do nothing.’ I grow afraid only when I see people acting and thinking like this. We all know the old story about the man who sat beside the trail too long, and then it grew over and he could never find his way again. We can never forget what has happened but we cannot go back. Nor can we just sit beside the trail.” 

He stopped speaking again. Sweat was beading his face and body. He looked again at the place where Crowfood sat but once again the sun was dazzling his eyes. He willed himself to go on. “Before the trouble came to our country I worked very hard to unite the Crees, but I know now that what I did was not enough. I know now that Blackfoot, Cree, Sarcee or Sioux – this does not matter any more. We must all become one people. Until we do that, putting aside old animosities, old jealousies, old rivalries, we will only help to subjugate ourselves. We will –”

He paused, trying to draw a deep breath and found that he could not. He could not go on, it was no use. He had to rest, to try to ease a hard pain that suddenly seemed to be exploding in his chest. Again he struggled for a breath but the pain was choking him and then somehow the earth moved and lurched hard against him and he struggled fiercely against it. the grass had closed over him and he felt it in his hands, that grass, so strong and green and good for the horses and buffalo to graze upon.

Update: CBC news report from Tyrone’s funeral, 16 February 2017.

*With thanks to Arok Wolvengrey for helping me put this beautiful thought from Candyce Paul into the Cree words he and his ancestors deserve. Thanks also to Arok Wolvengrey, Jean Okimâsis, Solomon Ratt, Ben Godden and Dorothy Thunder for persisting through the sadness of this loss to assist with transcription and translation.

Posted in In Memoriam, Video | 3 Comments

2018: mikisiwipîsim / ᒥᑭᓯᐏᐲᓯᒼ / February

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for allowing the Cree Literacy Network to share his 2017 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 the complete pdf is included here:
Y- and Th-Dialect Version: 2018Calendar

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Super Blue Blood Moon – Vocabulary





  • kotâwîwi-pîsim / ᑯᑖᐑᐏᐲᓯᒼ (eclipse; literally: sun sinking under ground)
  • wanitipiskipayiw / ᐘᓂᑎᐱᐢᑭᐸᔨᐤ (darken, suddenly get dark, be an eclipse)
  • mētoni kihcinêkan-pisîm / ᒣᑐᓂ ᑭᐦᒋᓀᑲᐣ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐃᐧᐲᓯᒼ (super moon)
  • sîpihko-pisîm / ᓰᐱᐦᑯ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐃᐧᐲᓯᒼ (blue moon)
  • mihko-pisîm / ᒥᐦᑯ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐃᐧᐲᓯᒼ (blood moon)


And here’s a link to NASA, so you can follow the science as well!


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Lac LaRonge Storytelling Camp

Thanks to Wayne Jackson for sharing this poster. To learn more about this camp, email nihithawkapisiwin@gmail.com

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It’s all about the Verbs!

Thanks to Wayne Jackson and to Janell Mistik Barrenda for sharing some beautiful videos recently on Facebook that teach about verbs. I’ll be writing more about each of them in future posts (with thanks), because, in Cree, verbs really are the centre of everything. And that’s a kind-of-complicated lesson that beginners sometimes overlook. I’m using this post to begin to explain why.

In a recent online chat, a beginner wrote something like “niya mîcisow mîcisowin” to mean “I eat food”. When I tried (as a slightly-more-experienced beginner) to explain that he needed a different form of the verb, he answered, “I’m just learning the words for now”.

What he had done seems perfectly reasonable: he got a dictionary and looked up the three English words “I,” “eat,” and “food” – and he copied out the “headword” for each one.

The dictionary entries might have looked like this:

  • niya (Pronoun, PrAI, me, mine
  • mîcisow (Verb, VAIs/he eats, s/he has a meal
  • mîcisowin (Noun, NI-1meal; eating, eating habits, food

So his sentence was perfect, right?

Not quite.

Cree and English are different kinds of languages. English is “isolating”: it likes having a separate word for everything. It’s like a picky eater: the peas shouldn’t touch the potatoes! Cree, on the other hand, is “polysynthetic”: it likes things connected. More like stew (if we keep the food analogy going) – only better organized. Nouns usually stand on their own, but verbs are made up of pieces put together like Lego. Sometimes a whole sentence in English is “just a word” in Cree.

If we look at a Cree verb table, and compare the English translations, we start to see how English leads us to think this way. In English, we only need two verb forms: “eat” and “eats” (and you only need the form “eats” once!) But Cree needs a different combination of suffixes and prefixes for every person in singular and plural forms – though the “verb stem” (mîciso-) stays the same. And, in Cree, the idea of eating a meal is also incorporated into the verb, so the adding the noun mîcisowin – in this case – is not even necessary!

Independent Forms English
 Verb, VAI mîcisow s/he eats, s/he has a meal
1s (I) nimîcison I have a meal, I eat
2s (you, singular) kimîcison You have a meal, you eat
1p exclusive (we, but not you) nimîcisonân We (but not you) have a meal, we eat (but not you)
1p inclusive (all of us, including you) kimîcisonaw, kimîcisonânaw We all have a meal, we all eat
2p (you all) kimîcisonâwâw You all have a meal, you all eat
3s (he/she/it) mîcisow He/she has a meal, he/she eats
3p (they) mîcisowak They have a meal, they eat

First-language speakers have all of these beginning and ending parts hard-wired in their brains, but beginning Cree learners need to learn what the pieces are. Tables like this one – called “verb paradigms” can help learners to see those pieces in an organized way. And if you learn the pattern for one verb, it works again and again for different verb stems of the same type.

As Wayne Jackson – a fully fluent Native speaker – explains at about the 10 minute mark in this video lesson – seeing a verb paradigm written out for the first time can rock your world.

My beginner friend might feel cheated by the dictionary for leading him astray – but print dictionaries – in any language – are forced to choose one main form to list as a headword (linguists sometimes call this form a “lemma”) – and language students almost always have to refer to a separate reference grammar or a book of verb paradigms to help figure out the details.

In our example, the online Cree dictionary chooses mîcisow as its head word for two reasons:

  1. it is the closest in form to the naked verb stem mîciso- (that is the verb stem alone without any suffixes or prefixes), and,
  2. it is still an actual word on its own (there’s a whole different kind of confusion that can arise when dictionaries select incomplete forms as their lemma!)

For Cree, the simplest verb forms – the forms closest to the naked verb stem – are third person singular (3s) forms. So whenever you look up a verb from English, the Cree form listed will mean “he/she _____s”. (And you need extra information – a whole assortment of Lego, if you will – to build proper verb forms for other persons in singular or plural).

((Full disclosure: in many cases it is the command, or “imperative” form that is closest to the naked verb stem – but for some verb types, imperative forms (“be red,” for example) just don’t make sense. And dictionaries rely on consistency to be useable. But that’s another story.))

As long as Cree is all about the verbs, students will need to learn all of the prefix/suffix combinations. *sigh* But there is help! Linguists (and teachers) rely on verb tables (or paradigms) to study (and teach) the patterns. There are some great old-school tools available to help us see how this works. One of the best – that is still available for purchase – is Freda Ahenakew’s Cree Language Structures: A Cree Approach. This link leads to Amazon, but you can also get it through good booksellers like McNally Robinson (in Winnipeg and Saskatoon), and Audrey’s Books (in Edmonton), and most Western Canadian university bookstores.

Amazing speakers and teachers like Wayne and Janell are working hard to make those tools more accessible and interactive – and in some future posts, I will talk more about their work, and how it can help language learners.

Another really useful tool is the itwêwina online dictionary, currently under development at the University of Alberta: http://sapir.artsrn.ualberta.ca/itwewina/ – through the marvels of 21st-century computer technology, we can look up dictionary forms, then click through to find complete paradigms, that will (eventually) show every possible form for every verb.


Posted in Audio (y-dialect), How Cree Works, Video, Wayne (Goodspirit) Jackson | Leave a comment

Twelve Great Ways to Help Yourself Learn Cree: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect, audio) – Clone

In this post, we assemble 12 motivational posters in Cree from Solomon Ratt, all with QR codes (supplied by Ramona Washburn), so that (with the help of a cell phone app), the posters can actually read themselves aloud! They print out beautifully on 11×17 paper – so please, help yourself, and keep speaking Cree!

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An earlier version of this post (updated to include all 12 posters and audio you can play here without the QR app) can be found here: http://creeliteracy.org/2017/11/20/eight-great-ways-to-help-yourself-learn-cree-solomon-ratt-th-dialect-audio/




8 kiskisiwina ta
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Our Teachers: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect, audio)


âniski-kiskinwahamâkêk, tâpiskôc mîkiwahp, matotisân êkwa tipiskâwi-pîsim

ᐋᓂᐢᑭᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑫᐠ, ᑖᐱᐢᑰᐨ ᒦᑭᐘᐦᑊ, ᒪᑐᑎᓵᐣ ᐁᑿ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐏᐲᓯᒼ

Teach from generation to generation, just like the tipi, the sweatlodge and the moon

Thanks to Ramona Washburn for adding the QR code on the image below: If you print the image with the QR code, anyone can use a QR app on your cell phone to “hear” the audio.

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Printable, Solomon Ratt | Leave a comment