Knighton Hillstrom on Medicinal Plants via Cathy Wheaton at Lac LaRonge

têniki to Cathy Wheaton for permission to share this video recorded at Lac la Ronge Indian Band Health Services (LLRIBHS) Cultural Gathering in La Ronge, August 2017. Our instructor is Knighton Hillstrom who teaches us about handling the plants with respect and some of their medicinal uses. Cathy gives us a great chance to learn the names of the plants as she copies his pronunciation. I’ve added as many plant names as I can: I’d welcome further comments!  Thanks also to Sadi Bronco (aka Frances Buchan) for helping to get us all in touch. You can find more of Cathy’s videos in the Facebook group “Spoken Cree Video Group”.

wâkinâkan tamarack tree

napakâsihtak (balsam pine, silver pine)

atihtêminak (blueberries); also, iyiniminsîpihkomin

pithîkomina (bear berries); also maskomin

athôskanak, athôskanahtikok (raspberry bush leaves) also ayôskanâhtik

minahikwâhtik (black spruce)

sihtapihkwan (pine cone)

waskwêtoy (pine cone)

môsomina (moose berries)

pihêw-mina (partridge berries, bunch berries)

  • Remember that in th-dialect area, the ê sound is always pronounced as î.






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Abel Charles Live from LaRonge via MBC Radio

Beautiful show 23 August 2017 on MBC about the benefits of traditional moss bags, and baby swings and breastfeeding for babies, Abel Charles interviewed Kayla Ratt (and her very well-behaved little one who added just the right amount of “pre-” Cree). After the break, baby’s kohkom, Ida Ratt – owâspisonihkêw ‘moss-bag maker’ – added her own teachings in Cree. The interview took place at the Lac LaRonge Indian Band Health Services Cultural Camp.

My ears aren’t nearly fast enough to catch it all, but wahwâ, this show is awesome. Even the ads in Cree are great.  Click here for Abel’s MBC bio – and tune in any chance you get! 

Online:  Click on the “Listen Live” button at the top of the page.

Here’s a link from several years ago to several radio stations you can listen to live. I’d love to hear if there are broken links, but even better, if there are new listening reasources online: On MBC, even the ads (in Cree) are great!

Cree Language Radio: Listen Live!


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mino tipiska, nohkom! Have a happy birthday, kohkom Sarah Harper

The Cree Literacy Network is in great company today sending our very best wishes to Sarah Harper, who is celebrating her 111th birthday yesterday at Bunibonibee Cree Nation (Oxford House, Manitoba).

Sarah is also being celebrated in the Winnipeg Free Press in a feature by Alexandra Paul, and on CBC. Her portrait also features in Gerald Kuehl’s recently released Portraits of the North.

Thanks also to Winnipeg photographer Doug Thomas, whose portraits are always brilliant. Doug accompanied Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson on this important birthday mission. North Wilson, who grew up in Oxford House and has always known Sarah is speaking Cree with her in this video.

Wanna know the real secret to longevity? Evidently, it helps to speak Cree! Apologies to Doug for down-sampling his HD video – it was too big to post here otherwise. 2Y8A5501-smaller



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Kevin Brousseau in Le Devoir: “Cree Languages without Borders”

Kevin Brousseau

From the 21 August 2017 issue of Montreal’s Le Devoir, newspaper: a great piece by Marie Michele Sioui in which linguist Kevin Brousseau talks about Cree as a language continuum that stretches – without borders – from Alberta to Labrador. Bien fait, Kevin! kimamihcihinân!

My own (very rough) translation follows – corrections (very) welcome!

The word “Cree” doesn’t exist in the Cree language. Neither does the name “Kevin”. Nevertheless, Kevin Brousseau is well and truly Cree, and passionate about their language, the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Canada.

A wink, an argument, a stance: to acknowledge the irony of his name, the linguist re-baptized himself “Kepin” on the blog he created to promote the use of Cree dialects and to share the stories and myths he has translated in them.[]

“In fact, “Kevin” is pronounced “kaybin”. They don’t have a “v” in Cree, so my grandmother would say Kepin,” says the 36-year-old, whom we met in Timmins, where he has been studying medicine for three years.

“My mother called me Kevin. I would suggest: if the Cree gave Cree names, we wouldn’t have the name Kevin!” he argues.

His mother, born in Waswanipi, preferred to speak more to her children in English than in Cree. “She went to residential school, and she made a decision – maybe consciously, maybe not – not to speak Cree to her children,” says the future doctor.

With his grandmother monolingual in Cree, the child was unable to communicate with her. He searched in dictionaries, moved in with her, and, in the course of time, he learned the language.

In the course of his interview with Le Devoir, given sometimes in English, and sometimes in French with just as much ease in one language as the other, the linguist is interrupted by his daughter. She speaks to him in Cree: he answers in the same language. “Since she was born,” they speak to each other in Cree, he emphasizes.

A continuum 

The Cree language is, in fact, “the Cree languages;” a series of dialects that create a continuum, a chain that stretches from Labrador all the way to Alberta.

Dans cette chaîne, les locuteurs sont ceux que les Européens ont appelés les Cris, les Innus (ou Montagnais), les Attikameks et les Naskapis. Autant de peuples qui, avant la sédentarisation et la colonisation, se déplaçaient, interagissaient régulièrement et référaient à eux-mêmes en utilisant les termes Nehiraw et Iriniw.

In this chain, the speakers are those whom Europeans named Cree: the Innu (or Montagnais), the Attikamek and the Naskapis. Most of these people who, before they became sedentary and colonized, were displaced, interacted regularly, and referred to themselves using the terms Nehiraw and Iriniw.

See a map of Indigenous communities in Quebec here

Pronunciation of words has evolved today, and varies according to the dialects. In the dialect of Kevin Brousseau’s grandmother, the second word became iyiniw, a word pronounced as “Innu”!

As a result, “If you speak with my grandmother, who only speaks Cree, she will never say “Cree,” because she doesn’t know what you’re talking about,” says Kevin Brousseau.

She also knows the Obidjwan people very well, but not the word “Attikamek,” the name of the nation to which its residents belong. For the elder, all Indigenous people are “Iyiniw” (or “Innus”), becuase that’s the word that was used before the arrival of Europeans – and the only word that exists in her language.

“When people were placed in communities, they were separated from their families, separated from their cultural and ethnic ties. They adopted European terms. They said, Oh well, we are no longer Innus [Iyiniw], we are Cree. It’s a question of terminology: interactions with the colonial state.

To this day, in the Cree dialect continuum, neighbouring communities “tend to understand each other,” comments the linguist. “Between Waswanipi and Obidjwan, where it changes from Attikamek to Cree – if you use the European terms – we are actually speaking about dialects of the same language.”

On the other hand, if one made a jump of ten communities, “people wouldn’t understand each other any more,” he says.

Most-spoken languages

According to the 2016 census, the Cree languages are the primary languages of 83,985 Canadians, making them the most commonly spoken of the Indigenous languages in the country. In 2011, they were the mother tongue of about 84,000 Canadians, reported between the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Québec, where 20% of the speakers live.

Ten [15!] years earlier, 80,000 Indigenous people reported that their mother language was Cree, constituting a 3% decrease relative to 1996.

About these figures, Kevin Brousseau comments that Cree has lost ground to entertainment. “Parents spend more time watching television by satellite, more time on social media, and children do the same. They all spend much less time interacting with other people who speak their language,” he observes.

When they send texts, play video games or check their Facebook page, Cree people do it in a language that isn’t their own. And spelling in Cree is a problem, comments Kevin Brousseau, who concludes that “incoherent spelling systems make learning to read and write very difficult for the young.”

It is partly for this reason that he created his blog, to unify Cree spelling. On his website, the story of Hansel and Gretel is given in Cree syllabics. The “âtayôhkân”, or Cree myths, come alive in English. The story of Goldilocks sits side-by-side with that of Diver Duck.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” the linguist has written on his website, where he delights in pushing the boundaries.

A few expressions in Cree from the east coast of James Bay:

Bonjour !  (Hello) Waachiye !

Comment vas-tu ?  (How are you?)  Tân eyihtiyan ? ou Tân espayiyan ?

Ça va bien. (Doing well)   Namui wiyesh ou Ni miyupayin.

Merci. (Thank you)  Chinaskumitin.

Au revoir. (Goodbye)  Il n’y a pas d’expression pour dire au revoir en cri de l’est de la baie James. Certaines personnes utilisent ekote, l’équivalent de « OK ».

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tatawâw: There’s room for everyone

Canadian newcomers from the Saskatoon Open Door Society look at a Cree headdress on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. (Olivier Feraeie/CBC)

It’s particularly sweet for me to see these CBC reports about the outreach for reconciliation coming from Muskeg Lake (in partnership with the Mennonite Central Committee), because I’ve always been so generously welcomed there myself. I’ve attended services in that church with its gorgeous Stations of the Cross painted by Kevin Pee Ace. And I once got to take the late Dr Freda Ahenakew to the powwow in that beautiful arbour where we can hear that fine Mennnonite choir singing in the video. That day was as close as I will ever get to taking the Queen to tea!

Bravo, Muskeg Lake! Bravo Treaty Commissioner (and former Muskeg Lake Chief) Harry Lafond: kimamihcihinân!

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What I did on Mid-term Break – Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

It’s taken a while to get computers and software to cooperate, but I’ve finally managed to download this great video about the March 2017 language camp. Narration, transcription, translation and video wizardry *all* by Solomon Ratt. wahwâ nâpêw! Hope he’s got time to do more soon!

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Solar Eclipse, 21 August 2017

For those watching today’s solar eclipse, some related words in Cree:

Be sure to protect your eyes! awahê! (Be careful!)

APTN interviewed Wilfred Buck this afternoon. Watch his interview here:

Click on the links to see more about these terms from itwewina – the intelligent online dictionary (still under development) that combines the Wolvengrey dictionary with the “fst” technology of University of Alberta’s AltLab.

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How do you say hamburger in Cree?

And just as importantly: What do you put on yours?

This little graphic was inspired by a question on the Facebook group
nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word of the Day. Thanks to Barry Ahenakew (Ahtahkakoop, SK), Simon Bird (Montreal Lake, SK), Stan Wilson (Opaskwayak, MB), and Solomon Ratt (Stanley Mission, SK) for their words for hamburger.

Of course, what you choose to put on it is up to you, but I notice that – unlike Barry Ahenakew – the photographer forgot the onion (wîhcêkaskosiy).

Thanks also to Wayne Jackson, who unwrapped the burger for a look and smell:

taswêkinêstamawin, niwâpahtên wiyâs êkwa nitêyihtên pahkwêsikanis
‘Spreading it open, I see meat and I smell the bun.’

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Rescued from the West Coast Trail – Solomon Ratt (th-dialect, audio)

The West Coast Trail, looking south from Sol’s campsite at Tsocowis Creek

  1. kiyâpic nipimâtisin âta takî-nipiyân nîtî “West Coast Trail.’ misko î-kî-pwâkomopathiyân sôskwâc kâ-pakitinamân ninayahcikan, nimaskimot, ikwa ikota thîkawiskâhk kâ-ati-pimisiniyân, ikota mîskanâs î-pimamok. kita-pîthiskipîw ikota kîtahtawî ikwa namwâc ta-kaskihtâniwin awiyak ikota takî-pimohtît. ikota nipimisinin î-kanawâpamakwâw miskisiwak wâsakâm nipîhk. mitoni nisto tipahikan ithikohk ikota î-pîhoyân pîthisk kâ-pî-takohtîcik kotakak athisitiniwak. wîstawâw kocihtâwak otayamiwâhcikanisa mâka wîstawâw namwâc kî-kahcitinamwak pimipathihowin. kotakak athisitiniwak tah-takohtîwak ikwa wîstawâw kocihtâwak otayamiwâhcikanisiwâwa mâka wîstawâw namwâc kahcitinamwak pimipathihowin. kîtahtawî kâ-takosihkwâw oskinîniwak kihcimohkomânaskîhk ohci, Washington kâ-icikâtîk cipahaskânis. wîthawâw kahcitinamwak pimipathihowin. sîwîpitîwak opaspihowîwa West Coast Trails ohci wîtha kahkithaw iyako akihcâsowinis î-kî-mîthikawiyâhk.

ᑭᔮᐱᐨ ᓂᐱᒫᑎᓯᐣ ᐋᑕ ᑕᑮ ᓂᐱᔮᐣ ᓃᑏ “West Coast Trail”᙮  ᒥᐢᑯ ᐄ ᑮ ᑇᑯᒧᐸᖨᔮᐣ ᓲᐢᒁᐨ ᑳ ᐸᑭᑎᓇᒫᐣ ᓂᓇᔭᐦᒋᑲᐣ, ᓂᒪᐢᑭᒧᐟ, ᐃᑿ ᐃᑯᑕ ᔭᐄᑲᐏᐢᑳᕽ ᑳ ᐊᑎ ᐱᒥᓯᓂᔮᐣ, ᐃᑯᑕ ᒦᐢᑲᓈᐢ ᐄ ᐱᒪᒧᐠ᙮ ᑭᑕ ᐲᖨᐢᑭᐲᐤ ᐃᑯᑕ ᑮᑕᐦᑕᐑ ᐃᑿ ᓇᒹᐨ ᑕ ᑲᐢᑭᐦᑖᓂᐏᐣ ᐊᐏᔭᐠ ᐃᑯᑕ ᑕᑮ ᐱᒧᐦᑏᐟ᙮ ᐃᑯᑕ ᓂᐱᒥᓯᓂᐣ ᐄ ᑲᓇᐚᐸᒪᒁᐤ ᒥᐢᑭᓯᐘᐠ ᐚᓴᑳᒼ ᓂᐲᕽ᙮ ᒥᑐᓂ ᓂᐢᑐ ᑎᐸᐦᐃᑲᐣ ᐃᖨᑯᕽ ᐃᑯᑕ ᐄ ᐲᐦᐅᔮᐣ ᐲᖨᐢᐠ ᑳ ᐲ ᑕᑯᐦᑏᒋᐠ ᑯᑕᑲᐠ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘᐠ᙮ ᐑᐢᑕᐚᐤ ᑯᒋᐦᑖᐘᐠ ᐅᑕᔭᒥᐚᐦᒋᑲᓂᓴ ᒫᑲ ᐑᐢᑕᐚᐤ ᓇᒹᐨ ᑮ ᑲᐦᒋᑎᓇᒷᐠ ᐱᒥᐸᖨᐦᐅᐏᐣ᙮ ᑯᑕᑲᐠ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘᐠ ᑕᐦ ᑕᑯᐦᑏᐘᐠ ᐃᑿ ᐑᐢᑕᐚᐤ ᑯᒋᐦᑖᐘᐠ ᐅᑕᔭᒥᐚᐦᒋᑲᓂᓯᐚᐘ ᒫᑲ ᐑᐢᑕᐚᐤ ᓇᒹᐨ ᑲᐦᒋᑎᓇᒷᐠ ᐱᒥᐸᖨᐦᐅᐏᐣ᙮ ᑮᑕᐦᑕᐑ ᑳ ᑕᑯᓯᐦᒁᐤ ᐅᐢᑭᓃᓂᐘᐠ ᑭᐦᒋᒧᐦᑯᒫᓇᐢᑮᕽ ᐅᐦᒋ, Washington ᑳ ᐃᒋᑳᑏᐠ ᒋᐸᐦᐊᐢᑳᓂᐢ᙮ ᐑᖬᐚᐤ ᑲᐦᒋᓇᒷᐠ ᐱᒥᐸᖨᐦᐅᐏᐣ᙮ ᓰᐑᐱᑏᐘᐠ ᐅᐢᐸᐱᐦᐅᐑᐘ West Coast Trail ᐅᐦᒋ ᐑᖬ ᑲᐦᑭᖬᐤ ᐃᔭᑯ ᐊᑭᐦᒑᓱᐏᓂᐢ ᐄ ᑮ ᒦᖨᑲᐏᔮᕽ᙮

Still alive when I could have died on the West Coast Trail. Barfing up blood I stopped and set my backpack down and laid on the beach which was where the trail ran at that stretch. In a few hours the tide would come in and make the trail impassible. I laid there watching the eagles by the water. I laid there for three hours before other hikers came along. Their cells, like mine, had no service but they stayed with me. More people arrived and and they all tried their cells but no one’s cell had service. Finally a couple of dudes arrive who were from the state of Washington. They had service! They called the West Coast Trail rescue number which we all had.

2. kîtahtawî kâ-wâpamâyâhk maskosis î-pîci-pâhtât ikota thîkawiskâhk, nikiskîthihtînân nôsî-maskwa namôtha wahthaw î-ayât. ikwa piyak athisitiniw kakwîcihkîmow kîspin kitakî-âhtinicik, kotak itwîw ta-wâskâpawîstawicik namôtha maskwak nika-pisiskîthimikonânak athisk î-mihcîtiyâhk.

ᑮᑕᐦᑕᐑ ᑳ ᐚᐸᒫᔮᕽ ᒪᐢᑯᓯᐢ ᐄ ᐲᒋ ᐹᐦᑖᐟ ᐃᑯᑕ ᔭᐄᑲᐏᐢᑳᕽ, ᓂᑭᐢᑮᖨᐦᑏᓈᐣ ᓅᓰ ᒪᐢᑿ ᓇᒨᖬ ᐘᐦᖬᐤ ᐄ ᐊᔮᐟ᙮ ᐃᑿ ᐱᔭᐠ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐤ ᑲᑹᒋᐦᑮᒧᐤ ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᑭᑕᑮ ᐋᐦᑎᓂᒋᐠ, ᑯᑕᐠ ᐃᑜᐤ ᑕ ᐚᐢᑳᐸᐑᐢᑕᐏᒋᐠ ᓇᒨᖬ ᒪᐢᑿᐠ ᓂᑲ ᐱᓯᐢᑮᖨᒥᑯᓈᓇᐠ ᐊᖨᐢᐠ ᐄ ᒥᐦᒌᑎᔮᕽ᙮

Suddenly we saw a bear cub coming up the beach, running, and we knew momma bear must be close. One of the people asked if they should move me but another said to gather together and since there were now nine of us the bears won’t bother us….

3. nîsitanaw cipahikanis ikospî ohci kâ-twîhômakahk helicopter ikwa ispî kâ-ati-ohpahowak niwâpâtîn nipiy otwîhomakanihk, î-athisitiniwak, ikwa niwâpamâwak aniki athisitiniwa kâ-kî-wîcihicik nohcimihk î-ispâhtâcik, ikota ta-kisâcîcik isko pôni-thiskipîki.

ᓃᓯᑕᓇᐤ ᒋᐸᐦᐃᑲᓂᐢ ᐃᑯᐢᐲ ᐅᐦᒋ ᑳ ᑜᐦᐆᒪᑲᕽ helicopter ᐃᑿ ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᐊᑎ ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᐘᐠ ᓂᐚᐹᑏᐣ ᓂᐱᕀ ᐅᑜᐦᐅᒪᑲᓂᕽ, ᐄ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘᐠ, ᐃᑿ ᓂᐚᐸᒫᐘᐠ ᐊᓂᑭ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘ ᑳ ᑮ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᒋᐠ ᓄᐦᒋᒥᕽ ᐄ ᐃᐢᐹᐦᑖᒋᐠ, ᐃᑯᑕ ᑕ ᑭᓵᒌᒋᐠ ᐃᐢᑯ ᐴᓂ ᖨᐢᑭᐲᑭ᙮

Twenty minutes later a helicopter arrived and as we lifted off I saw the tide touching the helicopter’s landing skis and the hikers scrambling into the forest where they would be stuck until the tide went out again.

4. cîst, kahkithaw iyakonik athisitiniwak î-môniyâwicik mâka namwâc piyak nikî-nakatik, î-nohtî-kihcinâhocik ta-paspîwak. nikakî-nipahikohtay askiti-pathowin kîspin îkâ ohci manisokawiyân, kî-itwîw ana maskihkîwitiniw kâ-kî-manisot. ninanâskomon.

ᒌᐢᐟ, ᑲᐦᑭᖬᐤ ᐃᔭᑯᓂᐠ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘᐠ ᐄ ᒨᓂᔮᐏᒋᐠ ᒫᑲ ᓇᒹᐨ ᐱᔭᐠ ᓂᑮ ᓇᑲᑎᐠ, ᐄ ᐣᐦᑏ ᑭᐦᒋᓈᐦᐅᒋᐠ ᑕ ᐸᐢᐲᐘᐠ᙮ ᓂᑲᑮ ᓂᐸᐦᐃᑯᐦᑕᕀ ᐊᐢᑭᑎ ᐸᖪᐏᐣ ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᐄᑳ ᐅᐦᒋ ᒪᓂᓱᑲᐏᔮᐣ, ᑮ ᐃᑜᐤ ᐊᓇ ᒪᐢᑭᐦᑮᐏᑎᓂᐤ ᑳ ᑮ ᒪᓂᓱᐟ᙮ ᓂᓇᓈᐢᑯᒧᐣ᙮

You know what? All those people were ‘white’ and none of them thought of abandoning me on the beach. They stayed to make sure I was safe. I could have died from a perforated ulcer, according to the surgeon who did my surgery, if I had not been treated in time. I am grateful.

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Reclaiming the legacy of Mistahi Maskwa

Thanks to Milton Tootoosis for allowing me to share this note from his Facebook group ACIMOWIN by Headman/Counsellor Milton Tootoosis. It is exciting to see that descendants of this visionary leader are finding ways to reclaim their proper place in Canada, and promote the name and legacy of their iconic ancestor.

The unique and historical Descendants of Mistahi Maskwa (Big Bear) Family Reps Information Meeting is on Sat Aug 19 @ Little Pine First Nation. Starts at 1pm. Prep meeting for the inaugural Gathering in 2018. This should be good.

Proud to be connected to the legendary leader who had great vision and resisted the temptation to accept treaty on the settlers terms. Big Bear & Poundmaker had the guts to demand better terms for their people. They warned the other Indian leaders that the treaty promises were not good enough and that the Queen and her reps could not be trusted (eg. broken treaties & Indian wars in the US). They would both be labelled rebel Indians and were unjustly charged, convicted and sentenced to prison for treason. Time to exonerate/pardon the legends. Their criticism and questions to the Queen’s reps have lived on since 1876. That’s vision, courage and leadership.


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