Birch Syrup Video: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Making birch syrup is a great traditional way to greet the spring. Christine Ravenis’s photos are the next best thing to being there (if only they could include a taste.)

This presentation by Solomon Ratt is equal parts dialogue-style text, and land-based tutorial. Scroll way down for a read-along video with more photos). For those who like to take their time with the text, a table is also provided, so you can also try the click-in-text lookup tool (start it by clicking the at the left margin, then choose your language combination).

sîwâkamisikêwinᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑫᐏᐣBirch Syrup Making
tânisi mâna kâ-itahkamikisiyan ispîhk kâ-sîkwahk?
nikî-sâh-sîwâkamisikânân mâna ispîhk kâ-sîkwahk.
ᑖᓂᓯ ᒫᓇ ᑳ ᐃᑕᐦᑲᒥᑭᓯᔭᐣ ᐃᐢᐲᕽ ᑳ ᓰᑿᕽ?
ᓂᑮ ᓵᐦ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑳᓈᐣ ᒫᓇ ᐃᐢᐲᕽ ᑳ ᓰᑿᕽ᙮
What do you do when it is spring?
We made birch syrup when it was spring.
kicihkêyihtên cî ta-sâh-sîwâkamikisiyan?
âha, nicihkêyihtên ta-sâh-sîwâkamisikiyâhk.
ᑭᒋᐦᑫᔨᐦᑌᐣ ᒌ ᑕ ᓵᐦ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᑭᓯᔭᐣ?
ᐋᐦᐊ, ᓂᒋᐦᑫᔨᐦᑌᐣ ᑕ ᓵᐦ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑭᔮᕽ᙮
Do you like to make birch syrup?
I liked for us to make birch syrup.
tânitahto kîsikâw ispîhk kâ-nâh-nitawi-sîwâkamisikiyan? tânisi kâ-kî-itahkamikisiyan?
pêyakwâw ê-niyânano-kîsikâk nikî-pôsinân opahkopîwinihk isi, êkotê ê-kî-nitawi-mânokiyâhk ta-sîwâkamisikiyâhk.
ᑖᓂᑕᐦᑐ ᑮᓯᑳᐤ ᐃᐢᐲᕽ ᑳ ᓈᐦ ᓂᑕᐏ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑭᔭᐣ? ᑖᓂᓯ ᑳ ᑮ ᐃᑕᐦᑲᒥᑭᓯᔭᐣ?
ᐯᔭᒁᐤ ᐁ ᓂᔮᓇᓄ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ ᓂᑮ ᐴᓯᓈᐣ ᐅᐸᐦᑯᐲᐏᓂᕽ ᐃᓯ, ᐁᑯᑌ ᐁ ᑮ ᓂᑕᐏ ᒫᓄᑭᔮᕽ ᑕ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑭᔮᕽ᙮
What day did you do the activity? What did you do?
One Friday we embarked (by canoe) to The Wading Place to set up a tent to make birch syrup there.
tânisi kâ-kî-itahkamikisiyan?
nikî-nâh-nawasônânânak waskwayak ta-mîstasoyâhk.
nikî-mâh-mîstasonân waskwayak. pihcipacikan êkota nikî-astânân êkwa sîpâ pihcipacikanihk nikî-ahyânanak askihkosok ikota ta-isi-ohcikawik waskwayâpoy.
ᑖᓂᓯ ᑳ ᑮ ᐃᑕᐦᑲᒥᑭᓯᔭᐣ?
ᓂᑮ ᓈᐦ ᓇᐘᓲᓈᓈᓇᐠ ᐘᐢᑿᔭᐠ ᑕ ᒦᐢᑕᓱᔮᕽ᙮
ᓂᑮ ᒫᐦ ᒦᐢᑕᓱᓈᐣ ᐘᐢᑿᔭᐠ᙮ ᐱᐦᒋᐸᒋᑲᐣ ᐁᑯᑕ ᓂᑮ ᐊᐢᑖᓈᐣ ᐁᑿ ᓰᐹ ᐱᐦᒋᐸᒋᑲᓂᕽ ᓂᑮ ᐊᐦᔮᓇᓇᐠ ᐊᐢᑭᐦᑯᓱᐠ ᐃᑯᑕ ᑕ ᐃᓯ ᐅᐦᒋᑲᐏᐠ ᐘᐢᑿᔮᐳᕀ᙮
What did you do?
We chose birch trees to tap.
We tapped birch trees. We put a funnel there and under the funnel we placed little pails to catch the birch sap.
tânispî isko êkosi kâ-itahkamikisiyan?
kapê-kîsik kî-ohcikawin waskwayâpoy.
ᑖᓂᐢᐲ ᐃᐢᑯ ᐁᑯᓯ ᑳ ᐃᑕᐦᑲᒥᑭᓯᔭᐣ?
ᑲᐯ ᑮᓯᐠ ᑮ ᐅᐦᒋᑲᐏᐣ ᐘᐢᑿᔮᐳᕀ᙮
For how long did you do that?
The birch sap dripped all day.
tânisi kâ-kî-ay-ati-itahkamikahk êkwa tânispîhk?
kihtwâm kâ-kîkisêpâyak nikâwiy êkwa nimisak kî-kisâkamisamwak waskwayâpoy ê-kî-sîwâkamisikêcik.
ᑖᓂᓯ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᔭᑎ ᐃᑕᐦᑲᒥᑲᕽ ᐁᑿ ᑖᓂᐢᐲᕽ?
ᑭᐦᑤᒼ ᑳ ᑮᑭᓭᐹᔭᐠ ᓂᑳᐏᕀ ᐁᑿ ᓂᒥᓴᐠ ᑮ ᑭᓵᑲᒥᓴᒷᐠ ᐘᐢᑿᔮᐳᕀ ᐁ ᑮ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑫᒋᐠ᙮
What happened then and when?
The next morning my mother and older sisters boiled the birch sap making birch syrup.
wihkasin cî sîwâkamisikan?
âha, wihkasin sîwâkamisikan.
ᐏᐦᑲᓯᐣ ᒌ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑲᐣ?
ᐋᐦᐊ, ᐏᐦᑲᓯᐣ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑲᐣ᙮
Is the birch syrup tasty?
Yes, the birch syrup tastes good.
kiwihkistên cî sîwâkamisikan?
âha, niwihkistên sîwâkamisikan ta-aspahcikiyân napaki-pâhkwêsikanisihk.
ᑭᐏᐦᑭᐢᑌᐣ ᒌ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑲᐣ?
ᐋᐦᐊ, ᓂᐏᐦᑭᐢᑌᐣ ᓰᐚᑲᒥᓯᑲᐣ ᑕ ᐊᐢᐸᐦᒋᑭᔮᐣ ᓇᐸᑭ ᐹᐦᑵᓯᑲᓂᓯᕽ᙮
Do you like the taste of birch syrup?
Yes, I like the taste of birch syrup on pancakes
Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Indigenous Knowledge (Science), Plants and Medicine, Solomon Ratt, Video | Leave a comment

Lip Syncing with Shaking Spear: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Original artwork by Solomon Ratt

Q: tâniwâ okimâhkan?
A: [lips point left]
Q: tânitê ê-itohtêt?
A: [lips point right]
Q: tânitê ê-itohtêyan?
A: [lips point way over there]
Q: ninistohtên kihciniskihk, namahciniskihk, taskamihk… kîkway ôma êkwa?
A: [lips contorting in disgust]: nama kîway! ê-atohoyân awa ôcêw.

Q: ᑖᓂᐚ ᐅᑭᒫᐦᑲᐣ?
A: [lips point left]
Q: ᑖᓂᑌ ᐁ ᐃᑐᐦᑌᐟ?
A: [lips point right]
Q: ᑖᓂᑌ ᐁ ᐃᑐᐦᑌᔭᐣ?
A: [lips point way over there]
Q: ᓂᓂᐢᑐᐦᑌᐣ ᑭᐦᒋᓂᐢᑭᕽ, ᓇᒪᐦᒋᓂᐢᑭᕽ, ᑕᐢᑲᒥᕽ᙮.. ᑮᑿᕀ ᐆᒪ ᐁᑿ?
A: [lips contorting in disgust]: ᓇᒪ ᑮᐘᕀ! ᐁ ᐊᑐᐦᐅᔮᐣ ᐊᐘ ᐆᒉᐤ᙮

Q: Where’s the chief?
A: [lips point left]
Q: Where did he go?
A: [lips point right]
Q: Where are you going?
A: [lips point way over there]
Q: I understand ‘right,’ ‘left,’ way over there’ … What is that?
A: [lips contorting in disgust]: Nothing. I swallowed a fly.

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

SRO and Alphabet Soup: Building Cree Language Literacy through Standard Spelling

The Cree language may disappear before arguments about spelling come to an end, but here, for the record, is the text of a 2011 presentation given in Winnipeg by Ken Paupanekis & Arden Ogg. Ken Paupanekis is a Native speaker of Swampy Cree (n-dialect) from Norway House, who has had a long career in education. Ken currently teaches Cree at the University of Manitoba, and for University College of the North. Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, and has worked with Cree language in writing following the direction of the late Dr Freda Ahenakew for almost 40 years. 

Every effort to read and write Cree is important. The knowledge of fluent first-language speakers is incredibly precious. But while spoken language is learned naturally, spelling is a code that needs to be taught. And code has to be consistent if it is to be decoded. In this presentation, we use the idea of “alphabet soup” not to show disrespect for any other writing, but rather, to describe the effect on readers of struggling with inconsistent spelling. 

The Cree Literacy Network was founded to encourage the development of Cree language literacy materials to support language revitalization. We use SRO because it has been used and tested and taught for over 40 years (and for a bunch more reasons listed in the presentation below). Wayne Jackson encourages people to use it in his FaceBook Group Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word/Phrase of the Day. Our purpose is not to discourage or criticize speakers learning to write for themselves. We definitely don’t want to change the way anyone speaks. Rather, Ken Paupanekis and I intended – through this presentation – to highlight the benefit of standard spelling as a key tool for literacy so people can share their language more effectively. 

For reading fluency and comprehension, Cree speakers deserve consistent spelling.

Learning to read and write in your own language should be a fundamental human right, yet relatively few Cree speakers ever have that chance. Those who do learn, struggle with a shortage of readable material, and ever-changing spelling. English had the same problems 500 years ago. We might think of made-up spelling (in any language) as “Alphabet Soup”. 

It takes a long time for any oral language to become a fully written language. Arguments can go on for centuries about the best symbols to use, whose dialect is “right”, and what spelling works the best. It’s a little like whose auntie makes the best soup. The problem is, any set of symbols will work, every dialect is as good as every other dialect, and actual spelling isn’t nearly as important as consistency. Everybody’s auntie can make great soup!

Even centuries of use don’t lead to perfection: readers and writers of English still complain
about its crazy spelling, but it works because it is consistent, and they are used to it. Since there is no “right” answer, the only way forward is to pick one system and use it all the time. If we want Cree language literacy to spread in a meaningful way as a healthy part of its revitalization, standard spelling is essential. As an endangered language, Cree hasn’t got centuries to waste!

Reading is our most important tool for lifelong learning. As a bonus, current reading theory tells us that biliteracy – the ability to read in more than one language – permits literacy skills used in one language to transfer to the other – especially when both languages use the same symbols (even when the symbols represent different sounds). This means that learning to read and write in Cree can help people learning to read and write in English, and vice versa. But for Cree – as for English – when speakers and teachers write in alphabet soup), most of these benefits get washed down the drain.

Once we can read fluently (in any language), wonderful things happen in our brains. Instead of using all of our “working memory” to puzzle out one sound at a time, our eyes begin to grab whole groups of letters at once, helping us recognize the common clumps as words. Faster conversion of words to understanding lets us shift to a higher gear. When we can read faster, we understand better. We can pay attention to what the words mean together in a sentence or paragraph, instead of puzzling over how they sound.

What is SRO?

Standard Roman Orthography (SRO) uses the letters of English alphabet (with a few modifications) to represent Cree language sounds. Each meaningful sound (or phoneme) is represented with one character. It is consistency of the sound-to-symbol correspondence that makes SRO effective.

SRO is also the spelling system that is most widely used for print publications in Cree, and has the greatest number of published books. As of 2011, SRO is taught and used in Cree language programs in schools, colleges and universities across the Western Canada.

Here is a table of sound correspondences adapted from Ken Paupanekis’s Introduction to Cree Language

1, Text and Student Handbook (First Nations University, 2011).

SRO Vowels: sounds as in English: sounds as in Cree:
a about maskwa ‘bear’
â cat âstam ‘come here’
i sit mikot ‘nose’
î machine nîna ‘I, me’ (n‐dialect)
o foot mispon ‘it is snowing’
ô food kôna ‘snow’
ê café pimohtê ‘walk’
SRO Consonants:
p pin or bin pêtâ ‘bring it here’
hp akohp ‘blanket’
t tin or din tânisi ‘hello’
ht mitâtaht ‘ten’
c chin kêkâc ‘already’
hc anohc ‘now, today’
k kin or grin kîmôc ‘secretly’
hk âhkosiw ‘he/she is sick’
s sin sêmâk ‘right away’
m me namôna ‘not’ (n‐dialect)
n no nîna ‘I, me’ (n‐dialect)
w will wiyâs ‘meat’
y yes âsay ‘already’
l leaf palacîs ‘pants’ (l‐dialect)
r red arîkis ‘frog’ (r‐dialect)

About vowels: Cree uses seven distinct vowel sounds. Three are “short vowels” (a, i, o). Four are “long vowels” which get a special mark (â, ê, î, ô). Some people call it a “roof” or a “hat”. We use a circumflex accent here, but others use macrons or acute accents. It doesn’t matter which symbol we choose, as long as we mark long vowels every time, because the difference between long and short vowels can change the meaning of a word.

About consonants: The English sound pairs p/b, t/d and k/g each represent two distinct phonemes. Cree only uses one of each pair, so the Cree sound of p, t and k falls can fall anywhere between English p and b, t and d, and k and g.

Seven Myths about Building Cree Literacy 

Myth 1: If you speak it, you can teach it.

Fact: Having a body doesn’t make us doctors, owning a car doesn’t make us mechanics. Speaking a language doesn’t make us language teachers. Teachers of any subject need to know their subject matter, but they must also know how to teach. For teaching language, and for teaching reading, teachers need proper training to develop teaching skills.

Myth 2: We need to stop language change.

Fact: Healthy, living languages never stop changing and innovating. The only languages that aren’t changing right now are the ones that nobody speaks any more.

Myth 3: Syllabics can fix all these problems.

Fact: Syllabics may be easier for beginning readers to pick up. Certainly it doesn’t hurt that the words are 50% shorter! But consistency is just as important in syllabics as in SRO. “Syllabic Soup” – with spelling made up on the spot – is just as hard to read as the kind with alphabet noodles. Syllabics is also more difficult to manage with computers and smartphones.

Myth 4: Standard spelling will destroy dialect diversity.

Fact: Dialect differences are as strong as ever for languages like English, French that have
used standard spelling for centuries. For example, in England, the word “conservatory” might be pronounced with four syllables: [kon-SERV-a-tree], where in North America we are more like to say it with five: [kon-SER-va-to-ree].
In China, the distinction between the symbols and the word goes even farther. The same symbols are used for reading three different Chinese languages: Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien whose words don’t even sound alike.

Myth 5: SRO can’t show dialect difference.

Fact: Standard spelling can help readers to recognize and analyse dialect differences for themselves, and to understand alternative words despite the differences. In the words of one elder on Facebook: “I don’t want to change how you speak, I just want to be able to understand you.” A Standard spelling system is the best way to support this goal.
As one example, something as simple as bolding the “changing” sound may remind readers that this sound differs from one dialect to another. Some people also add a mark (like the “hats” or “roofs” over vowels) over the “changing” sound. Readers who understand this can easily substitute the sound that is correct in their dialect, and keep right on reading.

Myth 6: Words should look like they sound.

Fact: Sometimes we forget that symbols on a piece of paper don’t actually make any sound at all. All languages were spoken before they were written, and their sounds exist whether they are written or not. It’s only through reading that we associate those symbols with the sounds of a particular language. The roman alphabet has been used for centuries to write many different languages, with very different sounds.

Myth 7: There are no materials.

Fact: There is actually quite a lot of material “out there,” but much of it is so idiosyncratic that it can’t be used outside the classroom where it was created, which is really a shame. As long as every teacher has to reinvent the wheel, we won’t gain much from their collective effort. When spelling is standardized, sharing materials is much easier, and the collection of materials will grow much faster.

SRO has been in use by Cree speakers, teachers and linguists since the 1970s. The foundation built by those materials is solid and tested: SRO materials are currently used in universities and colleges, and in some school classrooms, across Western Canada.

How can SRO help with Cree language literacy?

• Books written in different dialects would be readable by speakers of different dialects.
• The library of good books to read and other teaching resources would grow faster.
• Speakers and readers wouldn’t need special software to type Cree on a computer.
• Speakers and readers could use Cree to text on smart phones!
• People who can already read English get a head start, already knowing the letters.
• People who can read Cree now can read more fluently, and with greater comprehension when the words look the same way every time.
• Recent reading theory also suggests that reading in any language enhances the ability to read in another language: reading Cree may actually help develop English reading skills, and vice versa.
As they say in Plains Cree: miywâsin ‘It is good!’

Posted in Learn to Read - SRO, Literacy and Learning | 1 Comment

kimaskihkêminaw / Our Medicine: Wayne Jackson (y-dialect)

kinêhiyawêwinâw kimaskihkêminaw,
tâpiskôc ê-nâtawihikoyahk.
mâcika tahto-kîsikâw âpacihtâkan,
piyisk ka-miywayân,
kiyâm pêyak itwêwin kaskihtâyani tâpitaw.

ᑭᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᓇᐤ ᑭᒪᐢᑭᐦᑫᒥᓇᐤ,
ᑖᐱᐢᑰᐨ ᐁ ᓈᑕᐏᐦᐃᑯᔭᕽ᙮
ᒫᒋᑲ ᑕᐦᑐ ᑮᓯᑳᐤ ᐋᐸᒋᐦᑖᑲᐣ,
ᐱᔨᐢᐠ ᑲ ᒥᔺᔮᐣ,
ᑭᒫᒼ ᐯᔭᐠ ᐃᑘᐏᐣ ᑲᐢᑭᐦᑖᔭᓂ ᑖᐱᑕᐏ᙮

Our nêhiyaw language is our medicine,
it heals us.
Therefore use it everyday,
eventually you’ll feel good,
even if you’re only able to use one word continually.

Thank you, Wayne Jackson for permission to share this from your June 2018 FaceBook post. Sorry it’s taken so long to get here in this form: thank you for persevering!

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kācikan / Hideling: Billy Joe Laboucan (y-dialect)

Mama keeps last spring’s foal near by. Photo: Billy Joe Laboucan


nimōsihtān kaskēyihtamowin nikāwiy okohtākanihk
kā-mēkwā-ācimāt wīsahkēcāhkwa,
ohcikawāpiwinihk ēkwa pāhpiwinihk.

kāwi kī-takosinwak, ē-kātāhkwāw
anihi kostācowina ēkwa kaskēyihtamowina
kā-postatahamoht kiskinwahamātowikamikohk
ātiht kī-ācimīwak maci-manitowa
ātiht kaskihtakwahēwak.

māka kahkiyaw nikiskisinān wīsahkēcāhk
nikāwiy ēkwa nohtāwiy kī-sōhkisiwak
nikī-wāpahkīhikonānak māyi-kīkway
ēkwa nikī-wīcihikonānak ta-tāpowakēyihtamāhk
ta-āskōwihtamāhk ātayohkēwin ēkwa nikamon.


ᐁ ᒣᒁ ᑳᑎᑲᐏᔮᐣ
ᓂᒨᓯᐦᑖᐣ ᑲᐢᑫᔨᐦᑕᒧᐏᐣ ᓂᑳᐏᕀ ᐅᑯᐦᑖᑲᓂᕽ
ᑳ ᒣᒁ ᐋᒋᒫᐟ ᐑᓴᐦᑫᒑᐦᑿ,
ᐅᐦᒋᑲᐚᐱᐏᓂᕽ ᐁᑿ ᐹᐦᐱᐏᓂᕽ᙮

ᑳᐏ ᑮ ᑕᑯᓯᓌᐠ, ᐁ ᑳᑖᐦᒁᐤ
ᐊᓂᐦᐃ ᑯᐢᑖᒍᐏᓇ ᐁᑿ ᑲᐢᑫᔨᐦᑕᒧᐏᓇ
ᑳ ᐳᐢᑕᑕᐦᐊᒧᐦᐟ ᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑐᐏᑲᒥᑯᕽ
ᐋᑎᐦᐟ ᑮ ᐋᒋᒦᐘᐠ ᒪᒋ ᒪᓂᑐᐘ
ᐋᑎᐦᐟ ᑲᐢᑭᐦᑕᑿᐦᐁᐘᐠ᙮

ᒫᑲ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᓂᑭᐢᑭᓯᓈᐣ ᐑᓴᐦᑫᒑᕽ
ᓂᑳᐏᕀ ᐁᑿ ᓄᐦᑖᐏᕀ ᑮ ᓲᐦᑭᓯᐘᐠ
ᓂᑮ ᐚᐸᐦᑮᐦᐃᑯᓈᓇᐠ ᒫᔨ ᑮᑿᕀ
ᐁᑿ ᓂᑮ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᑯᓈᓇᐠ ᑕ ᑖᐳᐘᑫᔨᐦᑕᒫᕽ
ᑕ ᐋᐢᑰᐏᐦᑕᒫᕽ ᐋᑕᔪᐦᑫᐏᐣ ᐁᑿ ᓂᑲᒧᐣ᙮


They stole them away
While I was kept in hiding
I felt the sadness in my mother’s voice
As she told me Wisahkecahk’s teachings
Amidst tears and laughter.

They came back, hiding
Those fears and loneliness
Beaten into them at the mission school
Some can talk of those demons;
Some lock them in.

But we still remember Wisahkecahk.
My mom and dad were strong,
They made us see through the wrong.
And helped us believe;
To follow our ancestors in story and song.

(Indian Unknown aka Billy Joe Laboucan)

Copyright © 2006

Thanks to Chief Billy Joe for letting us share his words – and to Solomon Ratt for providing the audio. 

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Billy Joe Laboucan | Leave a comment

A Love Song for his Children: Billy Joe Laboucan (y-dialect)

Billy Joe Laboucan and his four beautiful daughters: Maria Meequon Charity Laboucan Melina Laboucan-Massimo and the late Bella Laboucan; his two sons are missing from this photo.

Thanks to Chief Billy Joe for letting us share this poem (that really ought to be a love song). Maybe a tune will come to him some time soon. And thanks to Solomon Ratt for recording his reading of Billy Joe’s work. 

nikiskēyihtēn ēkā ēkota ē-kī-ayāyān,
nisākihitōwin ēkota kī-ayāw,
kaskēyihtamowin kapē-tipisk ayamihāwinihk
kīspin ē-itēyihtamān ēkota ta-ayāyān…
ē-kī-kiskēyihtamān ēkā cīki takī-ayāyān
māka nisākihitōwinihk cīki nitayān

ᓂᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑌᐣ ᐁᑳ ᐁᑯᑕ ᐁ ᑮ ᐊᔮᔮᐣ,
ᑳ ᑮ ᒣᒁ ᐅᐦᐱᑮᔭᐣ᙮
ᓂᓵᑭᐦᐃᑑᐏᐣ ᐁᑯᑕ ᑮ ᐊᔮᐤ,
ᑳ ᑮ ᒣᒁ ᐅᐦᐱᑮᔮᐣ….
ᑲᐢᑫᔨᐦᑕᒧᐏᐣ ᑲᐯ ᑎᐱᐢᐠ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᐋᐏᓂᕽ
ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᐁ ᐃᑌᔨᐦᑕᒫᐣ ᐁᑯᑕ ᑕ ᐊᔮᔮᐣ…
ᐁ ᑮ ᑭᐢᑫᐦᔨᐦᑕᒫᐣ ᐁᑳ ᒌᑭ ᑕᑮ ᐊᔮᔮᐣ
ᒫᑲ ᓂᓵᑭᐦᐃᑑᐏᓂᕽ ᒌᑭ ᓂᑕᔮᐣ

I know I wasn’t there As you grew up.
My love was there,
As I grew up …
Lonely nights filled in prayer
Wishing I was there …
Knowing that I couldn’t be near,
Only in my love I’m everywhere

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1969: Solomon Ratt (th-dialect, audio)

Sol has never lost the grooviness of 1969.

1969 askîwin kâ-kî-akihtîk: nâpîw kî-pimohtîw tipiskâwi-pîsimohk, kî-mâmawinitonâniwin kita-kitohcikâniwik woodstockihk, ikwa kîwîtinohk nîtha niyânanosâp nikî-itahtopiponân î-wîcihakwâw nistîs ikwa nisîmisipan ikwa nohtâwîpan kita-wâskahikanihkîyâhk âmaciwîspimowinihk.

tahto-kîkisîpâyâw mâna nikî-pôsinân natamihk î-nitawi-kîskatahahtikwîyâhk. nikî-nîmânân mâna ikotî ohpimî ta-âpihtâ-kîsikani-mîcisoyâhk. ispî kâ-misakâyâhk nikî-kospinân î-nitonawâyâhkwâw minahikwak î-kwayaskosicik ikwa iyakonik nikî-kîskatahwânânak. nikî-manahkwatatahwânânak minahikwak ikwa nikî-nâsipihtahânânak mistikwak, wâsakâm î-âhthâyâhkwâw. mwîstas, kâ-kîsi-kîskatahahtikwîyâhk nîstâpan nikî-pî-wîcihikonân, î-sakahpitât mistikwa otôtihk ikosi î-isi-otâpît itî kâ-kî-wî-wâskahikanihkîyâhk. niciwâmipan nikî-pî-wîcihikonân kita-kospihtatâyâhk mistikwa. nîstâpan kî-othâstâw mistikwa ita kâ-wî-wâskahikanihkîyâhk ikwa ikota ohci nîthanân nâpîsisak kâ-kî-ati-wâskahikanihkîyâhk.

osâm poko kapî-nîpin nikî-otamîthonân iyako. ispî kî-ihkin kâwi kita-nitawi-ayamihcikîyâhk kistapinânihk âpihtawithikohk poko î-kî-kîsi-astâyahk apahkwân. kâ-ati-ohpahoyâhk opimithâw nîswâw wâskâkocin niwâskahikanisinân kita-wâpahtamâhk kâ-kî-isi-atoskîyâhk. î-kî-wâpamikoyâhk îtokî î-kî-wâskahikanihkîyâhk ispî mâna kâ-kî-tâh-twîhot.

ikospî 1969 nistam kâ-kî-kîwîyân aspin 1960 ispî kâ-kî-kwâsihikawiyân kita-nitawi-ayamihcikiyân ohpimî, nîtî kistapinânihk. nikî-mamihcihon athisk nohtâwîpan, nikâwîpan, ikwa nisîmisak ikota î-wîkicik, anima wâskahikanis kâ-kî-osîhtâyâhk.

ikospî mâna awiyak kâ-kî-wâskahikanihkît kahkithaw athisitiniwak kî-pî-wîcihowîwak. nohtâwîpan îtokî î-kî-itât namôtha katâc ta-pî-wîcihikoyâhkwâw athisk î-nitawîthimikoyâhk nîthanân nâpîsisak poko kita-wâskahikanihkîyâhk. ikosi kita-ati-kiskîthihtamahk iyako kîkway. tâpwî mâni-mâka, nistîs ikwa nisîmisipan kî-mistikonâpîwiwak ikwa nîtha nitohpikihtân itwîwina masinahikanihk.

1969 ᐊᐢᑮᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᑭᐦᑏᐠ: ᓈᐲᐤ ᑮ ᐱᒧᐦᑏᐤ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐏ ᐲᓯᒧᕽ, ᑮ ᒫᒪᐏᓂᑐᓈᓂᐏᐣ ᑭᑕ ᑭᑐᐦᒋᑳᓂᐏᐠ woodstockihk, ᐃᑿ ᑮᐑᑎᓄᕽ ᓃᖬ ᓂᔮᓇᓄᓵᑊ ᓂᑮ ᐃᑕᐦᑐᐱᐳᓈᐣ ᐄ ᐑᒋᐦᐊᒁᐤ ᓂᐢᑏᐢ ᐃᑿ ᓂᓰᒥᓯᐸᐣ ᐃᑿ ᓄᐦᑖᐑᐸᐣ ᑭᑕ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᔮᕽ ᐋᒪᒋᐑᐢᐱᒧᐏᓂᕽ᙮

ᑕᐦᑐ ᑮᑭᓰᐹᔮᐤ ᒫᓇ ᓂᑮ ᐴᓯᓈᐣ ᓇᑕᒥᕽ ᐄ ᓂᑕᐏ ᑮᐢᑲᑕᐦᐊᐦᑎᑹᔮᕽ᙮ ᓂᑮ ᓃᒫᓈᐣ ᒫᓇ ᐃᑯᑏ ᐅᐦᐱᒦ ᑕ ᐋᐱᐦᑖ ᑮᓯᑲᓂ ᒦᒋᓱᔮᕽ᙮ ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᒥᓴᑳᔮᕽ ᓂᑮ ᑯᐢᐱᓈᐣ ᐄ ᓂᑐᓇᐚᔮᐦᒁᐤ ᒥᓇᐦᐃᑿᐠ ᐄ ᑿᔭᐢᑯᓯᒋᐠ ᐃᑿ ᐃᔭᑯᓂᐠ ᓂᑮ ᑮᐢᑲᑕᐦᐚᓈᓇᐠ᙮ ᓂᑮ ᒪᓇᐦᑿᑕᑕᐦᐚᓈᓇᐠ ᒥᓇᐦᐃᑿᐠ ᐃᑿ ᓂᑮ ᓈᓯᐱᐦᑕᐦᐋᓈᓇᐠ ᒥᐢᑎᑿᐠ, ᐚᓴᑳᒼ ᐄ ᐋᐦᖭᔮᐦᒁᐤ᙮ ᒱᐢᑕᐢ, ᑳ ᑮᓯ ᑮᐢᑲᑕᐦᐊᐦᑎᑹᔮᕽ ᓃᐢᑖᐸᐣ ᓂᑮ ᐲ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᑯᓈᐣ, ᐄ ᓴᑲᐦᐱᑖᐟ ᒥᐢᑎᑿ ᐅᑑᑎᕽ ᐃᑯᓯ ᐄ ᐃᓯ ᐅᑖᐲᐟ ᐃᑏ ᑳ ᑮ ᐑ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᔮᕽ᙮ ᓂᒋᐚᒥᐸᐣ ᓂᑮ ᐲ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᑯᓈᐣ ᑭᑕ ᑯᐢᐱᐦᑕᑖᔮᕽ ᒥᐢᑎᑿ᙮ ᓃᐢᑖᐸᐣ ᑮ ᐅᖭᐢᑖᐤ ᒥᐢᑎᑿ ᐃᑕ ᑳ ᐑ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᔮᕽ ᐃᑿ ᐃᑯᑕ ᐅᐦᒋ ᓃᖬᓈᐣ ᓈᐲᓯᓴᐠ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᑎ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᔮᕽ᙮

ᐅᓵᒼ ᐳᑯ ᑲᐲ ᓃᐱᐣ ᓂᑮ ᐅᑕᒦᖪᓈᐣ ᐃᔭᑯ᙮ ᐃᐢᐲ ᑮ ᐃᐦᑭᐣ ᑳᐏ ᑭᑕ ᓂᑕᐏ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᒋᑮᔮᕽ ᑭᐢᑕᐱᓈᓂᕽ ᐋᐱᐦᑕᐏᖨᑯᕽ ᐳᑯ ᐄ ᑮ ᑮᓯ ᐊᐢᑖᔭᕽ ᐊᐸᐦᒁᐣ᙮ ᑳ ᐊᑎ ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᔮᕽ ᐅᐱᒥᖭᐤ ᓃᔃᐤ ᐚᐢᑳᑯᒋᐣ ᓂᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᓯᓈᐣ ᑭᑕ ᐚᐸᐦᑕᒫᕽ ᑳ ᑮ ᐃᓯ ᐊᑐᐢᑮᔮᕽ᙮ ᐄ ᑮ ᐚᐸᒥᑯᔮᕽ ᐄᑐᑮ ᐄ ᑮ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᔮᕽ ᐃᐢᐲ ᒫᓇ ᑳ ᑮ ᑖᐦ ᑜᐦᐅᐟ᙮

ᐃᑯᐢᐲ 1969 ᓂᐢᑕᒼ ᑳ ᑮ ᑮᐑᔮᐣ ᐊᐢᐱᐣ 1960 ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᑮ ᒁᓯᐦᐃᑲᐏᔮᐣ ᑭᑕ ᓂᑕᐏ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᒋᑭᔮᐣ ᐅᐦᐱᒦ, ᓃᑏ ᑭᐢᑕᐱᓈᓂᕽ᙮ ᓂᑮ ᒪᒥᐦᒋᐦᐅᐣ ᐊᖨᐢᐠ ᓄᐦᑖᐑᐸᐣ, ᓂᑳᐑᐸᐣ, ᐃᑿ ᓂᓰᒥᓴᐠ ᐃᑯᑕ ᐄ ᐑᑭᒋᐠ, ᐊᓂᒪ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐢ ᑳ ᑮ ᐅᓰᐦᑖᔮᕽ᙮

ᐃᑯᐢᐲ ᒫᓇ ᐊᐏᔭᐠ ᑳ ᑮ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᐟ ᑲᐦᑭᖬᐤ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘᐠ ᑮ ᐲ ᐑᒋᐦᐅᐑᐘᐠ᙮ ᓄᐦᑖᐑᐸᐣ ᐄᑐᑮ ᐄ ᑮ ᐃᑖᐟ ᓇᒨᖬ ᑲᑖᐨ ᑕ ᐲ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᑯᔮᐦᒁᐤ ᐊᖨᐢᐠ ᐄ ᓂᑕᐑᖨᒥᑯᔮᕽ ᓃᖬᓈᐣ ᓈᐲᓯᓴᐠ ᐳᑯ ᑭᑕ ᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᐦᑮᔮᕽ᙮ ᐃᑯᓯ ᑭᑕ ᐊᑎ ᑭᐢᑮᖨᐦᑕᒪᕽ ᐃᔭᑯ ᑮᑿᕀ᙮ ᑖᐿ ᒫᓂ ᒫᑲ, ᓂᐢᑏᐢ ᐃᑿ ᓂᓰᒥᓯᐸᐣ ᑮ ᒥᐢᑎᑯᓈᐲᐏᐘᐠ ᐃᑿ ᓃᖬ ᓂᑐᐦᐱᑭᐦᑖᐣ ᐃᑜᐏᓇ ᒪᓯᓇᐦᐃᑲᓂᕽ᙮

1969: man walks on the moon, Woodstock happened, and in the north I was 15 years old helping my older brother, my late younger brother, and my late father build a cabin in Stanley Mission.

Every morning we would set out upriver to go chop down trees. We took our lunch so we would have lunch away from home. When we arrived (by canoe) we would go inland looking for spruce trees that grew straight and it was those we chopped down. We peeled the spruce then carried the logs down to the shore and laid them down there. Later my late brother-in-law came to help us, tied the logs to his boat and dragged them to where we were going to build our cabin. My late cousin came to help carry the logs. My late-brother-in-law laid out the logs where we were going to build the cabin and from there us boys began building the cabin.

We were busy at this for most of the summer. When it was time for us to go back to school in Prince Albert we had only half the roof done. When we started to fly away the pilot circled our cabin twice so we could have a look at our work. Maybe he had seen us working at it when he would land during the summer.

1969 was the first time I came home for Christmas since I was kidnapped in 1960 and taken away to residential school in Prince Albert. I was proud when I saw that my mother, my father, and my younger siblings were living in the cabin, the cabin we had built.

At that time when someone was building a cabin all the people in the community came over to help. My late father must have told them not to bother since he wanted only us boys to build the cabin. In that way we would learn how to do that. And it was true, my older brother and my late younger brother became carpenters and I build with words in book.

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Let’s Keep On Speaking Cree: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Text by Solomon Ratt, photo by Ilona Pelletier.


kipîkiskwêwininâhk astêw kinisitohtamowininaw

kipîkiskwêwininâhk astêw kinisitawêyimitowininaw

kipîkiskwêwininâhk astêw kipimâtisiwininaw

kipîkiskwêwininâhk astêw kinêhiyâwiwininaw.

ᐊᐦᑲᒥ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᑖᐣ

ᐊᐦᑲᒥ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᑖᐣ
ᑭᐲᑭᐢᑵᐏᓂᓈᕽ ᐊᐢᑌᐤ ᑭᓂᓯᑐᐦᑕᒧᐏᓂᓇᐤ

ᐊᐦᑲᒥ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᑖᐣ
ᑭᐲᑭᐢᑵᐏᓂᓈᕽ ᐊᐢᑌᐤ ᑭᓂᓯᑕᐍᔨᒥᑐᐏᓂᓇᐤ

ᐊᐦᑲᒥ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᑖᐣ
ᑭᐲᑭᐢᐍᐏᓂᓈᕽ ᐊᐢᑌᐤ ᑭᐱᒫᑎᓯᐏᓂᓇᐤ

ᐊᐦᑲᒥ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᑖᐣ
ᑭᐲᑭᐢᑵᐏᓂᓈᕽ ᐊᐢᑌw ᑭᓀᐦᐃᔮᐏᐏᓂᓇᐤ

Let’s keep on speaking Cree

Let’s keep on speaking Cree:
In our language is our understanding.

Let’s keep on speaking Cree;
In our language is our recognition of who we are.

Let’s keep on speaking Cree;
In our language is our life.

Let’s keep on speaking Cree;
In our language is our Cree essence.

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Regina opens Jean Okimâsis Park

CLN Honorary Founder, Dr Jean Okimâsis visits the Regina park named in her honour

Congratulations to the forever-young Dr Jean Okimâsis whose groundbreaking work in the classroom at Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now First Nations University) inspired the careers of so many fine “Creechers” including Solomon Ratt, Wayne Jackson, Darren Okemaysim and many, many more. Through her teaching Jean has consistently set a strong example for standard spelling as a tool for building a community of readers and writers who are fully literate in Cree.

Unlike spoken language which we can pick up naturally when we hear it enough, learning to read and write (in any language) requires formal training. In a world where residential schools forbade Cree language instruction, opportunities for people to learn to read and write in Cree simply didn’t exist.

The survival of spoken Cree in the face of Canada’s determined interference is nearly miraculous. It is both natural and admirable for people to read and write the language using the tools they learned for English. But a genuine command of the written language, and a genuine command of reading in Cree – the kind of command we want for our Cree-speaking children and grandchildren – demands predictable spelling. As we look forward, imagining Cree as an official language of Canada, it’s hard to formulate that vision without a consistently shared system for writing and spelling.

So today, we congratulate Jean for her patience and persistence and life-long commitment to her language (and we work really hard to spell it right, too!): kimamihcihinân. We hope our efforts make her proud, too.

(If you are a former student of Jean’s (or a student of one of her students), please feel free to leave a comment below. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you!)
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“kitâskwêw, pihtakwatâw!*” It’s Hockey Day in Cree!

*itâskwêw, pihtakwatâw! = ᐃᑖᐢᑵᐤ, ᐱᐦᑕᑿᑖᐤ! ᐀ He shoots, he scores!

The excitement on social media about today’s NHL Hockey broadcast in Cree is pretty hard to ignore. Some of our favourite commentators were up at the crack of dawn this morning in Winnipeg, preparing for the excitement. And people all over the west are putting down tobacco and smudging on their behalf, hoping for a truly great event.

To Studio Host, Earl Wood, Play-by-play Announcer, Clarence Iron, Studio Panelist, Jason Chamakese and Studio Analyst, John Chabot: kahkiyaw kimamihcihinân! ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑭᒪᒥᐦᒋᐦᐃᓈᐣ “You make us all proud!” Find profiles at

Photo from APTN National News FB page

While we’re all waiting for the game to start, there’s time to brush up on your cheering in Cree. Find the words you’ll need to cheer in Cree, and other hockey-related posts here at Cree Literacy Network. You can even find Akina Shirt singing O Canada. Click the links, or type “hockey” into the search box.

Some other links from today’s media:

Rogers Hometown Hockey: Enoch Cree Nation


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