Cree Classes at Alexander First Nation

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

First Nations Circle of Knowledge and Practices Conference: Winston Wuttunee and William Dumas

William Dumas, Winston Wuttunee, Gerri Wuttunee, October 2017

Thanks to Winston Wuttunee and William Dumas for their workshop session on teaching through songs and story-telling (we never got around to the dancing part). It was so much fun listening to master storytellers stringing us along that I attended twice. Wish I could remember half of their jokes. Having had William’s help with language puzzles by email, it was a delight to finally see him in action as MFNERC’s conference emcee, and finally meet him in person. It was also a treat to see Gerri and catch up. Now that they’ve back in Winnipeg. I sure hope to see them again soon!

Posted in Community News, Identity | 2 Comments

Sing and Dance along with Lil Kohkom: kîspin kisâkihin

With thanks to #CreeSimonSays for the delightful video of this beloved Classic.

kîspin kisâkihin (tune: Heel and Toe Polka)

ôma nikamowinis
kâ-pâhpihk ohci.
nâpêsis ê-wâpamit
iskwêsisa ê-ocêmât.
this (is a) little song
for laughter
a boy is seen
kissing a girl
kîspin kisâkihin
sêmak pê-ocêmin;
kîspin kipakwâsin
sêmâk ka-nakasin.
if you love me
come kiss me right now
if you hate me
you will leave me right now
ha, ha, ha, môcikan
omis îsi ka-nikamoyahk,
kâ-miyawâtamahk ôma
hahaha, it’s fun
for us to sing like this
when we celebrate
our life
kîspin kisâkihin
sêmak pê-ocêmin;
kîspin kipakwâsin
sêmâk ka-nakasin.
if you love me
come kiss me right now
if you hate me
you will leave me right now
otênâhk itohtêtâk
sîwâpoy ka-minihkwânaw,
maskihkîsa ka-mîcinaw.
let’s go to town
we will go have fun
we will drink pop
we will eat candies
kîspin kisâkihin
sêmak pê-ocêmin;
kîspin kipakwâsin
sêmâk ka-nakasin.
if you love me
come kiss me right now
if you hate me
you will leave me right now
Edmonton ê-ohtohtêyân,
sêhkêpayîs ê-pôsiyân,
mistikimâw ê-itêyimisoyân,
êsa ôma ê-otihkomiyân.
I’m coming from Edmonton
riding in a car
thinking of myself like a boss
and here I was, lousy.
  • An old time favourite, translated into Plains Cree by Winston Wuttunee. Recorded by Dolores Sand in 2004 as part of her Classics in Cree CD, shared here with permission. Translation from Cree to English by Arok Wolvengrey.
Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Dolores Sand, Simon Bird (#CreeSimonSays), Video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

First Nations Circle of Knowledge and Practices Conference: Wilfred Buck

“Science is all around us – and we have to start applying it on our terms.”

Wilfred Buck’s keynote talk at the MFNERC First Nations Circle of Knowledge Conference (October 2017) focused on the need of 21st century kids for 21st century tools. He talked about his many travels and studies of astronomy and quantum physics, and his connections with NASA.

Compared to Kepler telescopes and NASA missions to Mars, the technology we push here at the Cree Literacy Network is pretty low tech. But without solid reading and writing skills, 21st century students can’t become the proud, strong and knowledgeable people our world needs. Whether we’re using roman or syllabic spelling, reading and writing well in Cree language demands consistent spelling.

Here is some of the vocabulary in Cree that Wilfred uses in his talk (additions and corrections welcome!)

Cree (SRO)EnglishSyllabic
acâhko-sîpiy star river, the Milky Wayᐊᒑᕽ ᓰᐱᕀ
acâhkosak stars ᐊᒑᑯᓴᐠ
atim-acâhk dog star ᐊᑎᒼ ᐊᒑᕽ
awâsisak childrenᐊᐚᓯᓴᐠ
câpânak great-grandparents, great-grandchildren: tied together at the beginning and end of the seven generationsᒑᐹᓇᐠ
êkosi, ninanâskomonthat's it, I am gratefulᐁᑯᓯ , ᓂᓇᓈᐢᑯᒧᐣ
kâh-kitowak thunderers, thunderbirdsᑳᐦ ᑭᑐᐘᐠ
kiwêtin Polaris, the north star, literally, going home starᑭᐍᑎᐣ
mahihkan wolfᒪᐦᐃᐦᑲᐣ
mahkêsiw foxᒪᐦᑫᓯᐤ
namêw sturgeonᓇᒣᐤ
ospwâkana pipesᐅᐢᑇᑲᓇ
pakonêkîsik hole in the sky, Pleiadesᐸᑯᓀᑮᓯᐠ
pawâkanak dream spiritsᐸᐚᑲᓇᐠ
pawâmiwin dreamsᐸᐚᒥᐏᐣ
pimâtisiwin lifeᐱᒫᑎᓯᐏᐣ








Posted in Astronomy, Indigenous Knowledge (Science), Video | Leave a comment

Asani – ayîkis (y-dialect, audio)

Asani – Listen (2009)

Thank you to Sherryl Sewepagaham for permission to share this sweet, original composition that she recorded with her group Asani in 2009. The a capella trio includes Sherryl, Sarah Pocklington and Debbie Houle, who first met in the Grant McEwan College Aboriginal Choir. It was fun to transcribe the words in SRO and syllabics following in response to a post on Ramona Washburn’s Facebook Group Cree Language Resources ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ. It was also great to have Sherryl’s help – especially with the flies! 😉

1. niwâpamâw niskîsikos ohciᓂᐚᐸᒫᐤ ᓂᐢᑮᓯᑯᐢ ᐅᐦᒋ I see, with my eye
ayîkis ê-ay-apitᐊᔩᑭᐢ ᐁᐊᕀᐊᐱᐟa frog sitting
2. niwâpamâw niskîsikos ohci ᓂᐚᐸᒫᐤ ᓂᐢᑮᓯᑯᐢ ᐅᐦᒋ I see, with my eye
ayîkis ê-kwâskohtitᐊᔩᑭᐢ ᐁᒁᐢᑯᐦᑎᐟ a frog jumping
3. niwâpamâw niskîsikos ohciᓂᐚᐸᒫᐤ ᓂᐢᑮᓯᑯᐢ ᐅᐦᒋ I see, with my eye
ayîkis ê-môwat ôcêsaᐊᔩᑭᐢ ᐁᒨᐘᐟ ᐆᒉᓴ A frog eating flies
4. niwâpamâw niskîsikos ohciᓂᐚᐸᒫᐤ ᓂᐢᑮᓯᑯᐢ ᐅᐦᒋ I see, with my eye
ayîkis ê-kitotᐊᔩᑭᐢ ᐁᑭᑐᐟA frog croaking

Visit Sherryl’s website for her more recent recordings, or listen to more of Asani’s music, available for purchase via iTunes:


Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Songs in Cree | 1 Comment

î-nitotamahk kîsik: Rosanna Deerchild translated by Solomon Ratt

It’s so exciting to learn that the Cree edition of Rosanna Deerchild’s Calling Down the Sky – lovingly translated into th-dialect by the esteemed Solomon Ratt is ready for a launch at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson on October 29th.

Rosanna said early on that one of her goals in collecting her mother’s stories was giving them back to her in the Cree language that was stolen from her at Residential School. Solomon’s translation work was essential to this goal.

Launch details aren’t on the McNally site yet, but you can keep an eye out here:

For a sample of Rosanna and Solomon’s collaboration, you can listen to Sol read along in the following post from May 2016:

Rosanna Deerchild – Translated by Solomon Ratt (th-dialect, with audio)

Posted in Books for Advanced Readers, Solomon Ratt | Leave a comment

Free Cree Classes (th-dialect) at Sagkeeng, November 2017

Turtle Lodge is located at Sagkeeng First Nation (On Google maps:  47071-F Hwy 11, FORT ALEXANDER Indian Reserve, MB, R0E 0P0.

For details, email:

Anishinabe (Ojibway) and Nehetho (Cree) Language Camps at Turtle Lodge, November 11-24: Nehetho Camp Nov 11-17, Anishinabe Camp Nov 18-24.

Come and learn the language of our ancestors in a traditional way, in ceremony and on the land. This camp is for training language instructors, and open to youth ages 20-30. Participants must be willing to spend the week at Turtle Lodge. Beginners are welcome, spaces are limited.

The program is free of charge. Participants will be asked to provide their own transportation to the Turtle Lodge, and bring their own bedding. A list of items to bring will be provided once registered.


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

ahkamêyimo, Robert-Falcon Ouellette! Petitioning for Cree Language Support in the House of Commons

Robert Falcon Oullette addresses the House of Commons in Cree – Screen grab from Huff Post video of the speech

(First, here’s a link to the petition – that could really use your support!)

Robert-Falcon Oullette, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, rose to address the House of Commons in Cree in May 2017 about the safety of Indigenous women, and appropriately, did so in Cree. Plains Cree is Robert’s birth right as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation, but it is a birth right that was denied him by the legacy of residential schools; instead, Plains Cree is Robert’s third or fourth language.
Huffington Post provided video of the original speech (with translation subtitles, that Robert provided later): 2017/05/05/robert-falcon-ouellette-cree-house-commons

Here’s his text in SRO along with the translation provided by Robert’s office staff (hay-hay!) :

Recently in the Prairies two high profile violent events occurred where young Indigenous women were killed and severely hurt. anohcihkî nîswâw âcimowina kipêhtênaw ita oskâya-iyiniw-iskwêwak ê-nipahihck âhpô ê-kî-sôhki-wîsakatahohcik.
These events occurred while people stood by and recorded these incidents. êkosi kî-itahkamikan mêkwâc ayisiyiniwak ê-kanawâpahkêcik mîna ê-masinipihcikêcik. êkosi tâpitaw kâ-âh-ispayik.
The freedom of the violence calls into question our own humanity. kita-nâkatawêyihtamahk piko kâ-âh-isi-pamihitoyahk, kiyânaw ayisiyiniw kâ-ititoyahk.
I am a supporter of the Moose Hide Campaign and it is time that we raise Indigenous women above our current beliefs. niya niwîcikâpawîstên ôma môswa-ayân atoskâtamâkêwin (Moose Hide Campaign) êkwa ispayin ta-wihtamahk ôma kah-kitimâkêhikiwina, ta-kistêyimâyahkik kahkiyaw iskwêwak.
My aunts, cousins, daughter and friends are beautiful; they are courageous, humble, intelligent, loving, respectful, honest, hardworking. nikâwîsak, nisikosak, nitawêmâwak, nitânis, mîna nitôtêmak miyosiwak; sôhkitêhêwak, tah-tapêyimisowak, sâkihiwêwak, kistêyimowak, tâpwêyihtâkosiwak, sôhki-atoskêwak.
They deserve additional protection of our laws so people think twice before they destroy lives.


kitakî-manâcihihcik, kitakî-manâcihikocik oyasiwêwin, êkosi namôya sêmâk kita-kitimahihcik, namôya sêmâk ka-nisiwanâcihihcik.
Thank-you Tapwe
hay hay hay hay

After being denied translation service, Robert went on to raise a point of privilege – again using  Cree – about having been effectively silenced by the lack of translation services. CTV news includes video of his point of privilege:  mp-argues-in-cree-for-indigenous-languages-in-parliament

Here’s CBC’s coverage, after the fact:  cree-parliament-ouellette

And he’s still trying. (That’s the part where we all say ahkamêyimo, RFO!)

So what happens when you address Canada’s House of Commons in Cree? Robert tried again in September. Here’s how it looks in a screen grab from




Posted in From the Mainstream, Video | Leave a comment

Beyond the Kinship System: About Family Relationships

Today while families are gathering for Thanksgiving (or at least, to share a good meal of turkey!) seems like a good time to share Doug Cuthand’s May 2016 piece about family ties. Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix appeared under the headline, “First Nations’ strong family ties must be respected.” It’s a good read – and a really helpful reflection on how Cree family connections work, and about traditional leadership especially around Little Pine.  Click on the link to read more.


Posted in From the Mainstream, How Cree Works | Leave a comment

hay hay – A grateful Thanksgiving rant for our Cree Language Warriors!

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful to the Cree language warriors who continue to promote and support nêhiyawêwin as a genuine 21st Century language by using the tools (like SRO) that will allow speakers of Cree to develop as readers and writers so they can share their ideas all across the Cree dialect continuum. We all need more of the connections that bring us together, and fewer petty barriers that create confusion and keep us apart!

Maybe a good start might be agreement about how to spell some really basic words. It’s hard for people to learn to read when the words look different every time. One little word that seems to get a great deal of spelling creativity is “hay hay” (in some communities, “ay hay”).  It’s even being used these days in places like the Alberta Legislature. And we really want its usage in môniyaw institutions to be honoured with recognizable spelling (right?)

hay hay is a common, simple word, but everyone tends to spell it their own way. They usually begin with what they know about reading English. Of course, English is full of silent letters, and spells the same vowel sounds half a dozen ways each. It’s a terrible model for spelling anything!

We continue to struggle with English (with varying degrees of resentment), because the same system has been used for 500 years. And here’s the thing: It’s awful, but we’re used to it! That’s what makes it work, whether you’re reading in Canada, or England, or Australia, or anywhere else in the world. English spelling is standardized. It is consistent and predictable (whether we like it or not). And consistency and predicability are keys that we need to use for Cree to help it thrive in the 21st century. And to help language learners use it with fluency and competence, and confidence!

We often see hiy hiy, aiy haiy, hîy hîy, and many, many original creations from people who resent being corrected. They say they “like their own spelling”. People who try to promote SRO for Cree get called language bullies. It’s really not fair. Since when has “liking” your own spelling helped anybody else understand what you mean? Surely the most important test of anything we write is whether it can be understood!

So here are some notes Arok Wolvengrey posted in the Facebook group Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word of the Day quite some time ago, trying to explain *why* we write hay-hay as we do:

hay-hay sounds like English “hi hi” or “high high”, NOT English “hay hay”

This is a way of giving thanks. Some Cree speakers do not use this. Others restrict its use to accepting something given, ceremonially or otherwise. Others use it simply as equivalent of English “thanks”.

Because it sounds like English “hi hi” or “high high”, many are writing it here as “hiy hiy”. This is, however, not a standard roman orthography (SRO) way of writing this Cree expression. In the SRO, the combination of “ay” sounds like the “i” in “bite” or “ice”, because it is a combination of [a] and [y]. [a] in Cree words like atim [ut TIM] sounds the “u” in “but”, and the [y] is more like the “y” at the end of “pretty” (like “ee” in English). Thus “ay” is /a+y/ (or like a rapid pronunciation of English “uh+ee”. So, a Cree word spelled naniway is usually pronounced [NUN nih why] (though it may start to sound like [NUN nih way] in some dialects – and it if does, this doesn’t change the spelling! it just means that [ay] is being simplified and pronounced more like Cree [ê])

In contrast, the Cree spelling “iy” represents a sound equivalent to the long [î] sound (like “ee” in English). This is usually used at the end of Cree nouns like sîpiy [see PEE] “river”, nipiy [nip PEE] “water”, nîpiy [nee PEE] “leaf”, miskwamiy [MIS kwum mee] “ice”, etc., and sometimes in the middle of words like niya [nee YUH] “I, me” or derivatives of /miyw-/ “good” like miyo- [mee YO] “good”, miywêyihtam [mee WAYH tum] “s/he likes it”, miywâsin [MEE waa sin] “it’s good”, etc.

What all this means is: when you write “hiy hiy”, it looks like something that should be pronounced “hee hee”. To represent something that sounds like English “high high” in the Cree SRO, we write “hay hay”. English and Cree spelling are very different. Cree spelling respects Cree sounds, not English ones.

hay hay, Arok. And hay hay to all the rest of the wonderful Cree language warriors who continue to fight for language revitalization! hay hay, hay hay! I, for one, an grateful to all of you!

kinanâskomitinâwâw! (That’s thank you to a group. But that’s a Thanksgiving rant for another day!)

Posted in Learn to Read - SRO, Uncategorized | Leave a comment