All about Ducks – y-dialect

Following up on Mary Cardinal’s terrific tongue-twister, here’s a collection of duck terms extracted from the online itwêwina dictionary, with a couple of extras provided by Solomon Ratt. 

âhtahow ᐋᐦᑕᐦᐅᐤfly to another place
amiskosip ᐊᒥᐢᑯᓯᑊwood duck; literally: beaver duck
apiscisipis ᐊᐱᐢᒋᓯᐱᐢteal duck
asêhâw ᐊᓭᐦᐋᐤfly back, fly backwards
asêkocin ᐊᓭᑯᒋᐣfly back, fly backwards, go backwards
atimihâw ᐊᑎᒥᐦᐋᐤfly away
ayakaskikotêw ᐊᔭᑲᐢᑭᑯᑌᐤhave a broad nose; have a broad beak
ca-cahkacahikêsiw ᒐᒐᐦᑲᒐᐦᐃᑫᓯᐤgive little pecks with its beak
cahkataham ᒐᐦᑲᑕᐦᐊᒼpoke at s.t. with its beak; poke at s.t. with a stick ;; play bingo
cahkatahikêw ᒐᐦᑲᑕᐦᐃᑫᐤpoke at things with its beak; poke at things with a stick ;; play bingo
cahkatahwêw ᒐᐦᑲᑕᐦᐍᐤpoke s.o. with a beak or stick
cimikotêw ᒋᒥᑯᑌᐤhave a short nose; have a short beak
ispâhkêkocin ᐃᐢᐹᐦᑫᑯᒋᐣfly up into the air
ispihâw ᐃᐢᐱᐦᐋᐤfly there
ispîhtakotêw ᐃᐢᐲᐦᑕᑯᑌᐤfly so far
itakocin ᐃᑕᑯᒋᐣhang thus or there, be suspended thus or there; fly thus or there, travel
itakotêw ᐃᑕᑯᑌᐤhang thither or thus; fly thither or thus
itiskwêkotêw ᐃᑎᐢᑵᑯᑌᐤhang with head in such a position; fly with its head that way
iyinisip ᐃᔨᓂᓯᑊmallard duck
iyinisipisᐃᔨᓂᓯᐱᐢmallard duckling
kâh-kwîwîstahâw ᑳᐦᑹᐑᐢᑕᐦᐋᐤKahkewistahaw; Cree chief, signatory to Treaty 4; literally: He Flies Encircling
kâhkâkîsip ᑳᐦᑳᑮᓯᑊcormorant, crow duck
kâhkâkîsipis ᑳᐦᑳᑮᓯᐱᐢyoung cormorant, young crow duck
kaskitêsip ᑲᐢᑭᑌᓯᑊblack duck
kînikwâyowêwisip ᑮᓂᒁᔪᐍᐏᓯᑊspoonbill duck; pintail duck; literally: point-tailed duck
kinokotêw ᑭᓄᑯᑌᐤhave a long nose; have a long beak
kisîkocin ᑭᓰᑯᒋᐣfly fast, speed along
kîwêhâw ᑮᐍᐦᐋᐤfly back; fly home, go home by plane
mahkikotêw ᒪᐦᑭᑯᑌᐤhave a large nose; have a large beak
mihkostikwânêwisip ᒥᐦᑯᐢᑎᒁᓀᐏᓯᑊred-headed duck
mikot ᒥᑯᐟnose; beak
misi-sîsîp ᒥᓯ ᓰᓰᑊlarge duck
misikwayawêwisip ᒥᓯᑿᔭᐍᐏᓯᑊcanvasback duck; literally: big-necked duck
mitahtahkwanᒥᑕᐦᑕᐦᑿᐣa wing
nâpêsip ᓈᐯᓯᑊdrake, male duck
nawakipayihow ᓇᐘᑭᐸᔨᐦᐅᐤduck his/her own head, bend down quickly
nawataham ᓇᐘᑕᐦᐊᒼhit s.t. in mid-air, as it flies by
nawatahwêw ᓇᐘᑕᐦᐍᐤhit s.o. in mid-air, as it flies by
ńîkihcanakwêwisip ńᐄᑭᐦᒐᓇᑵᐏᓯᑊblue wing duck
nôsêsip ᓅᓭᓯᑊfemale duck
ôcinîwihêsiw ᐆᒋᓃᐏᐦᐁᓯᐤduck hawk
ohpahow ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᐤfly up, rise, fly away, fly from its perch
ohpihâw ᐅᐦᐱᐦᐋᐤfly up
ohpwênam ᐅᐦᐻᓇᒼmake s.t. fly up
ohpwênêw ᐅᐦᐻᓀᐤmake s.o. fly up
ohtakocin ᐅᐦᑕᑯᒋᐣfly from there, fall from there; arrive by water from there
okotᐅᑯᐟhis/her nose, beak
osâwisip ᐅᓵᐏᓯᑊbrown duck, yellow duck [also used as a personal name]
oski-wâwi ᐅᐢᑭ ᐚᐏfresh egg
otahtahkwanᐅᑕᐦᑕᐦᑿᐣhis/her wing
owacistwaniwᐅᐘᒋᐢᑢᓂᐤhave a nest
papâmihâmakan ᐸᐹᒥᐦᐋᒪᑲᐣfly about
papâmihâw ᐸᐹᒥᐦᐋᐤfly around, about
pâskaham ᐹᐢᑲᐦᐊᒼbreak s.t. open, e.g., an egg
pâskâpatahwêw ᐹᐢᑳᐸᑕᐦᐍᐤput out s.o.'s eye by stick or beak
pêcihâw ᐯᒋᐦᐋᐤcome flying, fly toward
pîhcihâw ᐲᐦᒋᐦᐋᐤfly inside
pîhtokêhâw ᐲᐦᑐᑫᐦᐋᐤfly in
pîhtokêkocin ᐲᐦᑐᑫᑯᒋᐣfly in, fall in
pîhtokwêhâw ᐲᐦᑐᑵᐦᐋᐤfly in
pîhtokwêkocin ᐲᐦᑐᑵᑯᒋᐣfly inside, come flying inside
pîhtokwêpihâw ᐲᐦᑐᑵᐱᐦᐋᐤfly inside, enter by flying
pimakocin ᐱᒪᑯᒋᐣfly past; move along, go by; work, be in working order
pimakotêw ᐱᒪᑯᑌᐤfly past; run along, operate, work, be in working order
pimihâmakan ᐱᒥᐦᐋᒪᑲᐣfly
pimihâw ᐱᒥᐦᐋᐤfly, fly along
sâpohâw ᓵᐳᐦᐋᐤfly through a pane of glass; fly right past without stopping
sâpowêyawihow ᓵᐳᐍᔭᐏᐦᐅᐤfly through the body
sêsêsiw ᓭᓭᓯᐤsnipe; snow snipe; long legged duck; yellow legs, plover; water bird
sihkihp ᓯᐦᑭᐦᑊwater hen, hell-diver, diver duck, coot
sîpâpayihow ᓰᐹᐸᔨᐦᐅᐤduck under
sipwêkocin ᓯᐻᑯᒋᐣfly off, depart flying; leave by water or air
sîsîp ᓰᓰᑊduck
sîsîp-sâkahikanihk ᓰᓰᑊ ᓵᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᕽDuck Lake, SK; literally: at duck lake
sîsîp-wâwi ᓰᓰᑊ ᐚᐏduck egg
sîsîp-wâwi ᓰᓰᑊ ᐚᐏduck egg
sîsîpak tohkiciskêwakᓰᓰᐸᐠ ᑐᐦᑭᒋᐢᑫᐘᐠducks with their asses in the air
sîsipak tohkiciskêwi-mîcisowakᓰᓰᐸᐠ ᑐᐦᑭᒋᐢᑫᐏᒦᒋᓱᐘᐠducks eating with their asses in the air
sîsîpasiniya ᓰᓰᐸᓯᓂᔭduck shot
sîsîpi- ᓰᓰᐱduck, pertaining to a duck
sîsîpi-mîcimâpoy ᓰᓰᐱ ᒦᒋᒫᐳᕀduck soup
sîsîpi-pîway ᓰᓰᐱ ᐲᐘᕀduck feathers, duck-down
sîsîpis ᓰᓰᐱᐢsmall duck
takahkâciwasomêw ᑕᑲᐦᑳᒋᐘᓱᒣᐤboil s.o. well, e.g., duck
takwâkisip ᑕᒁᑭᓯᑊfall duck
tapahtakocin ᑕᐸᐦᑕᑯᒋᐣfly low, hang low
taskamihâw ᑕᐢᑲᒥᐦᐋᐤfly across
wacistwanihkêwᐘᒋᐢᑢᓂᐦᑫᐤbuild a nest
wâhkos ᐚᐦᑯᐢfish egg
wâkicânêw ᐚᑭᒑᓀᐤhave a curved nose or beak
wâsahacaskwêsiw ᐚᓴᐦᐊᒐᐢᑵᓯᐤfrog eater duck
wâsakâhâw ᐚᓴᑳᐦᐋᐤsoar around
wâsakâmêpihâw ᐚᓴᑳᒣᐱᐦᐋᐤfly in a circle
wâskâkocin ᐚᐢᑳᑯᒋᐣfly in a circle
wâwâhkânikana ᐚᐚᐦᑳᓂᑲᓇcrushed egg shell
wâwâkan ᐚᐚᑲᐣegg shell
wâwâsakâpihâw ᐚᐚᓴᑳᐱᐦᐋᐤfly in circles, circle overhead
wâwi ᐚᐏegg
wâwis ᐚᐏᐢsmall egg
wayawîhâw ᐘᔭᐑᐦᐋᐤfly out; fly out of a cage, fly outside
wayawîkocin ᐘᔭᐑᑯᒋᐣfly out
wayawîkotin ᐘᔭᐑᑯᑎᐣfly out; be flung out
wâyinokotêw ᐚᔨᓄᑯᑌᐤfly back, come back
wîmâhâw ᐑᒫᐦᐋᐤfly by a detour
yîkihcanakwêwisip ᔩᑭᐦᒐᓇᑵᐏᓯᑊblue wing duck
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A Ducky Cree Tongue-twister from Mary Cardinal Collins

Blue-winged teal drake standing on rock. ©Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Thanks to Mary Cardinal Collins for letting me share this great Cree tongue-twister remembered from childhood (as if most Cree words aren’t tongue-twisting enough for beginners!)

apiscisipisak otapiscisicisiwâwa
ᐊᐱᐢᒋᓯᐱᓴᐠ ᐅᑕᐱᐢᒋᓯᒋᓯᐚᐘ

In English, it means, “The little feet of teals (literally, “little ducks”)”
apiscisipis ᐊᐱᐢᒋᓯᐱᐢ  “teal” literally, “little duck” (a type of duck or water bird)
apiscisicisᐊᐱᐢᒋᓯᒋᐢ   “little foot” or “maybe even little toes” 

From links at Ducks Unlimited, Canada, we learn that teals are literally little ducks, roughly half the size of a mallard, and the green ones are even smaller than the blue ones

Thanks also to:

  • Arok Wolvengrey for SRO help
  • Solomon Ratt for audio (while we’re 
  • Barry Ahenakew for confirming that the term refers to either Blue-winged or Green-winged Teals
  • Leigh Patterson of Ducks Unlimited Canada for finding me photos of Teals that give us a good look at the little feet of those little ducks! 

Green-winged teal drake standing at marsh edge. ©Ducks Unlimited Canada.

And finally, direct from YouTube – a video of blue-winged teals diving for food – keep an eye out for those little teal toes! 

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Charlie Venne: Cree Videos for Everybody

Go Charlie Venne! Thanks for sharing your new YouTube channel with all of us! Click on the video to play it – and 
I’ve already hit “subscribe” on your YouTube page – I hope lots of others do as well. 

This link to the channel leads to the whole collection:


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Introductory Cree at CILLDI, 2018

Introduction to Cree is one of many amazing Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute summer courses offered this July. Check it out here:

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2018: pâskâwihowipîsim / ᐹᐢᑳᐏᐦᐅᐏᐲᓯᒼ / June

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.


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

Following up on our joint presentation at Editors Canada 2018 Conference in Saskatoon (26 May 2018), Solomon is (as usual) three jumps ahead. Using slides from our presentation, he has prepared this bilingual presentation (with audio!) of Rosanna’s poem î-nihci-tîpwâtamâhk kîsik / Calling Down the Sky. The title of our presentation (which I will add here as soon as I can) was: Translating English Into Cree: Not Just Lip Service. 

Thanks to Rosanna for letting us share and speak about her work (and thanks to Dawn Marie Marchand for the kick-ass background for the slides!) 

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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.

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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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