2018: sâkipakâwipîsim / ᓵᑭᐸᑳᐏᐲᓯᒼ / May

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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Darren Okemaysim visits Parliament with Robert Falcon Ouellette


Thank you to Darren Okemaysim for permission to use this photo of himself with Robert Falcon Ouellette (Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre) in the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa on 22 March 2018. This photo acknowledges a really proud moment for nêhiyawêwin: we’re so proud of both of you! I hope this moment is the first of many!

At my request, Darren provided the following comments about his work there.

Nikî-nitawi-itwêstamawâw awa okihci-nîkân-apiw ita Ottawa ispihk kâ-kî-niski-pîsimohk. Kî-mâmiskôtam tânêhki anohc piko êkwa ta-itwêstamâcik kinistam-iyiniwak pihcâyihk ita kihci-nîkân-apiwikamikohk, kâhkiyaw nistam-iyiniwak ta-pêhtâcik wî-âpacihtâtwâwi opîkiskwêwiniwâw. Anohc êkw êkwa ati-kitâpahtamok kwayask êkwa nohtê-wîc-âtoskêmêwak kâhkiyaw nistam-iyiniwak ta-pihtikwatâhkik kipîkiskiskwêwininawa.

ᓂᑮᓂᑕᐏ ᐃᑘᐢᑕᒪᐚᐤ  ᐊᐘ  ᐅᑭᐦᒋ ᓃᑳᐣ ᐊᐱᐤ  ᐃᑕ  ᐅᑕᐘ  ᐃᐢᐱᕽ  ᑳᑮᓂᐢᑭᐲᓯᒧᕽ ᙮  ᑮ ᒫᒥᐢᑰᑕᒼ ᑖᓀᐦᑭ  ᐊᓄᐦᐨ  ᐱᑯ  ᐁᑿ  ᑕᐃᑘᐢᑕᒫᒋᐠ  ᑭᓂᐢᑕᒼ ᐃᔨᓂᐘᐠ  ᐱᐦᒑᔨᕽ  ᐃᑕ  ᑭᐦᒋᓃᑳᐣ ᐊᐱᐏᑲᒥᑯᕽ ,  ᑳᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᓂᐢᑕᒼ  ᐃᔨᓂᐘᐠ  ᑕᐯᐦᑖᒋᐠ  ᐑ ᐋᐸᒋᐦᑖᑤᐏ ᐅᐲᑭᐢᑵᐏᓂᐚᐤ ᙮   ᐊᓄᐦᐨ  ᐁᐠᐤ  ᐁᑿ  ᐊᑎᑭᑖᐸᐦᑕᒧᐠ ᑿᔭᐢᐠ ᐁᑿ  ᓄᐦᑌ ᐑᐨᐋᑐᐢᑫᒣᐘᐠ  ᑳᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᓂᐢᑕᒼ ᐃᔨᓂᐘᐠ  ᑕᐱᐦᑎᑿᑖᐦᑭᐠ  ᑭᐲᑭᐢᑭᐢᑵᐏᓂᓇᐘ ᙮

I went to interpret for MP (Robert Falcon Ouellette) in Ottawa in March. He addressed why it is important today for interpretation of First Peoples’ languages in the House of Commons, for all First Peoples’ to be heard should they choose to speak their language. They are now looking closely at it and are very willing to work in bringing in our First Peoples’ languages.

In 24 March 2018 interview, Robert-Falcon Ouellette talks about addressing the point of privilege that led to this moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAO5nuQSQFQ&feature=youtu.be

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FNU 2018 Powwow – Darren Okemaysim

Thanks to Darren Okemaysim for letting me post his powwow thought of the day: Consider it his personal invitation!

wî-pwâtisimonâniwan ôta oskana kâ-asastêki. miywâsin mâna omânitêwak kâ-takosihkik êkwa mistahi ka-kiyokâtonâniwan. kaskêyihtamaskatiwinâniwan pâhkici mâna sipwêtêtwâwi ispîhk mâka ohcitaw miyo-ispayin kapê-ayi mâna.

wee-pwaa.ti.so.mo.naa.noo.wun…oe.tu…os.ku.nu…kaa.u.sus.tey.ki. mee.waa.sin…maa.nu…o.maan.tey.wuk…kaa.tu.ko.seeh.kik…ey.gwu…mis.tu.hi…ku-ki.yoe.kaa.to.naa.noo.wun. kus.key’h.tu.mus.ku.too.win paah.ku.chi…maa.nu…si.pey.tey.twaa.wi…is.peehk…maa.gu…oh.chi.toe…mi.yo-is.peye.yin…maa.nu.

ᐄᐧ ᐹᐧᑎᓯᒧᓈᓂᐊᐧᐣ  ᐆᑕ  ᐅᐢᑲᓇ  ᑳ ᐊᓴᐢᑌᑭ᙮   ᒥᔮᐧᓯᐣ  ᒫᓇ  ᐅᒫᓂᑌᐊᐧᐠ  ᑳ ᑕᑯᓯᐦᑭᐠ ᐁᑲᐧ ᒥᐢᑕᐦᐃ ᑲ ᑭᔪᑳᑐᓈᓂᐊᐧᐣ᙮   ᑲᐢᑫᔨᐦᑕᒪᐢᑲᑎᐃᐧᓈᓂᐊᐧᐣ ᐹᐦᑭᒋ ᒫᓇ ᓯᐯᐧᑌᑖᐧᐃᐧ ᐃᐢᐲᕁ ᒫᑲ ᐅᐦᒋᑕᐤ ᒥᔪ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᐣ ᑲᐯᐊᔨ ᒫᓇ

There will be a pow wow here in Regina. It is so nice to have visitors from afar arrive and lots of visiting occurs. There is a lonely feeling felt when they leave, but there are good times all the time.

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2018: ayîkipîsim / ᐊᔩᑭᐲᓯᒼ / April

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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Love Pours – Billy Joe Laboucan (Northern y-dialect)

Bella Laboucan – Always loved



Thanks and deep respect to Billy Joe Laboucan for permission to share this poignant tribute to his late daughter Bella, who became one of the legions of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women in 2013 at the age ot 25. While I can’t begin to imagine the pain of loss that hundreds of families feel every day, I believe that the shame of their truth is something that all Canadians bear. They all – we all – deserve better. (Here is Bella’s Story from the MMIW Inquiry.)

Sākihitōwin ohcikawīw ohciLove pours from
Niskīsikohk.My eyes.
Sākihitōwin sākaskinahtāw,Love fills
NikiskisōwinaMy memories.
Sākihitōwināpoy kākīcihtāwLove-tears soothe
Nimanawaya.My cheeks.
Sākihitōwin osāmaskinahtāw,Love overwhelms
Nitīhīh.My heart.


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Cree Language Gathering: Fisher River, Manitoba

Cree Language & Cultural Gathering | March 23 – 25, 2018 | Fisher River Community Hall (Manitoba). It’s not clear who to contact for more information, but you could try messaging the Fisher River Cree Nation FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/fisherrivercreenation/


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Neon Cree in Winnipeg: Joi T. Arcand

Joi Arcand’s Cree language installations in the form of business signage are not new (you can read more about an earlier one here), but her current work, showcased in the “Insurgence/Resurgence” installation currently on display at the at the Winnipeg Art Gallery comes with a great line:

‘The language wasn’t lost — it was taken. And we’re here to take it back.’

While I’m enjoying the coverage, I’m intrigued that there is no indication at all (in the written version of the story) of what the syllabics actually say. As Joi explains in the video, she hopes to challenge people to learn a bit for themselves.

View the video here: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/exhibitionists/in-huge-neon-joi-arcand-is-rewriting-everyday-signs-in-cree-1.4570256

In SRO transliteration, her neon sign reads ninohtê nêhiyawan: “I want to speak Cree”. I’m looking forward to struggling to decode all of the text on the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s enormous Tyndall stone staircase.


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Public Art in Saskatoon: sîpiy mîna kîsik

This new work in neon is the creation of Cree artists Joseph Naytowhow, Kenneth T. Williams and lead artist Tony Stallard. It presents the words sîpiy mîna kîsik, meaning river and sky, in syllabics. It is scheduled to be displayed for the next three years, but there is a chance it could become a permanent installation.

Read the whole story from this link at MBC radio: https://www.mbcradio.com/2018/03/cree-art-piece-adorns-saskatoon-city-skyline


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Billy Joe Laboucan: Cooperation Bush-style

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Thanks to Billy Joe Laboucan for letting me share this great little story. Mary Cardinal Collins calls it a great example of “mâmawohkamâtow sakâwiyiniw style” (cooperation, bush-(people)-style). And it would make a great story for kids. (Now, if he’d only record himself telling it again in Cree!)

One time when we traveling along in our wagon and a team of horses. The wagon was loaded down with us kids sitting on blankets in the back and mom and dad on the front seat, and dogs were tied behind with a couple of dogs running loose. They were dad’s hunters, a header and heeler.
Dad always had his 30-30 close at hand, leaning to his left on the corner of the wagon box; and luckily too, cuz’ a mule deer doe ran right across the wagon road in front of the horses. He handed the lines to my mom, picked up the rifle and fired clipping the left front leg of that running deer all in one motion. Then, the dogs were off chasing it into the bush to our left with my dad right behind them in hot pursuit.
My mom held the horses til they settled down. And in the quiet, we could hear the dogs barking and my dad shouting to them. Then we could hear them turn to the right in a large circle, and suddenly, the deer came running towards us with its front leg dangling as the hunting dogs nipped its heels. In a flash, my mom jumped off the wagon and grabbed its head and flipped it down, crimping its neck. I grabbed the reins just in case the horses moved in the commotion.
She shouted up to us on the wagon, “pītā mōhkomān!” (bring the knife!) Both my sisters were rummaging as quickly as they could in the grub box for my mom’s butcher knife, then my older sister, Cheechit jumped off the wagon with it and handed it to her as my mom struggled with the kicking deer, then she slit its throat, quickly killing it.
Right then, my dad came running out of the bush and yelled at the dogs, “kīyām’pik!” (Quiet!) Then finally, it grew quiet …
Then we all started laughing!
And my dad praised the two hunting dogs for bringing the deer right back to the wagon….
As he looked at my mom, who had already started skinning the deer, … we laughed even more.

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A rant in favour of Standard Spelling Systems – but not for the purpose you think (Arok Wolvengrey)

Arok Wolvengrey, Jean Okimâsis and Simon Bird at Saskatoon’s Dr Freda Ahenakew Library, February 2017




Thanks to Arok for letting me share his recent Facebook rant about the relationship between writing, sound and meaning. Arok writes:

The best tools for learning spoken language (besides face-to-face interaction) involve video and/or audio files so people can actually hear the language. Spoken language equates sound with meaning. That is what people need to learn when speaking a language – the equation of sound and meaning. Anything else (such as writing) can be a distraction. Similarly, sign languages equate visual hand shapes and gestures with meaning. Trying to spell words out in sign language is a “long-cut” which is far less effective than using the meaningful gestures/signs themselves. The same can be said for written languages.

The problem with a writing system that tries to equate symbols to sound before getting to meaning is that it is distracting and takes the long way around. If it is only a tool for sound, it can never be standardized because people (speaking many variable dialects, all of which must be respected) will continue to sound things out every time they see a word (especially when that word is written differently every time anyone writes it), and will never develop actual literacy in the language because no single form will ever come to be recognized for the meaning it represents, only an approximation of sound. The best way to teach sound is with sound, not silent symbols on a page.

In order to help with literacy on the other hand, the best writing system equates complex symbols (consistent spelling of words) with meaning and has far less to do with sound. So when fluent speakers see a word spelled, they should know what it means instantly (and already know how it sounds in their dialect) without having to sound it out. Fluent English readers know what “knee” means without bothering to think about how the ‘k’ sound contributes to the pronunciation of the word only to discover it doesn’t contribute at all and then have to reject it every time. Fluent English readers know what ‘tomato’ means (whether they pronounce it [toMAYto] or [toMAHto], etc.) and don’t need to sound it out every time (or argue about the spelling when we do pronounce it differently). The one spelling works no matter the pronunciation. That’s why the English spelling system (rather than the English symbols) is so powerful – because everyone agrees on that link between spelling and meaning.

In essence, what I am saying is that spelling shouldn’t be used to teach sounds because if it is, then it can’t do the work that spelling is good for. Sounds should be used to teach sounds and these should be learned before spelling. In turn, sign language gestures and consistent written spelling should be used to teach communication in the ways they were designed for. With all the tools at our disposal now, we should be teaching sound with sound, leaving the (consistent) spelling in the background until such time that learners know enough of the spoken language that they can just learn spelling as the secondary means of communication that it is meant to be.

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