sêwêyâkanak / Jingle Bells

Nearly 30 years ago, the late Freda Ahenakew, and her mentor, the late Ida McLeod, produced a booklet with several dozen familiar children’s songs, Christmas carols and hymns translated into Cree. It’s been out of print for a long time now, but here is their version of Jingle Bells / sêwêyâkanak.  This photo is as close as I can come to Bette Spence’s description of driving through the snow with horse and sleigh to attend the Christmas concert at the Little Red River day school in the 1920s. (We’re sending love to her and her family too, as one who has celebrated over a hundred Christmases!)

Hints: You know the tune, but to help fit the words to the notes, I’ve put brackets around vowels that get dropped out, and used bold to show the strongest syllables.

2021 Update: Audio added [Solomon Ratt assures me that my singing helps set an example for other non-speakers, to listen, read the SRO, and sing along. I like to think of it as leaving room for others to improve!]


pwê nimiywêyihtên
mistatim ot(â)pânâskohk, hê!
pwê nimiywêyihtên
mistatim ot(â)pânâskohk!

nihk ê-pim(i)pahtât
mistatim onâsk
wahyaw ê-(i)skopahtât
nimiywêyihtên tâp
anohc kâ-tipiskâk


ᓭᐍᔮᑲᓇᐠ, ᓭᐍᔮᑲᓇᐠ
ᑖᐻ ᓂᒥᔰᔨᐦᑌᐣ
ᒥᐢᑕᑎᒼ ᐅᑖᐹᓈᐢᑯᕽ, ᐦᐁ!
ᓭᐍᔮᑲᓇᐠ, ᓭᐍᔮᑲᓇᐠ
ᑖᐻ ᓂᒥᔰᔨᐦᑌᐣ
ᒥᐢᑕᑎᒼ ᐅᑖᐹᓈᐢᑯᕽ!

ᑰᓂᕽ ᐁ ᐱᒥᐸᐦᑖᐟ
ᒥᐢᑕᑎᒼ ᐅᑖᐹᓈᐢᐠ
ᐘᐦᔭᐤ ᐁ ᐃᐢᑯᐸᐦᑖᐟ
ᐁ ᐸᐦᐱᓈᓂᐦᑫᐟ
ᐁ ᓭᐍᐱᒋᑫᐟ
ᓂᒥᔰᔨᐦᑌᐣ ᑖᐻ
ᐁ ᓂᑲᒧᓈᓂᐦᑫᐟ
ᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑳ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐠ

* sêwêyâkanak is also the word used for the jingles on jingle dresses.

15 Responses

  1. Hello,
    I work with the music teacher and would like to include this song in our Christmas concert. Is there a live /audio version, we could get? I want to pronounce the words right.
    Thank you Trudy Williams
    Vincent Massey Community School
    Saskatoon, Sk.

  2. I am currently employed with the Rocky Boy School as a Cree language Specialist and I am interested to fine out if you have any training, workshops in Cree anywhere in Canada

    1. Hi.
      First Nations’ University in Regina specializes in First Nation Language programs.
      University of Saskatchewan, also has an after degree in Language.

    1. Let’s see if Dolores Sand will send us purchase details for her Christmas cd – if she does, we should add them to the post!

    2. Hi Jo – Why don’t you email Dolores directly at doloresgreyeyessand(at)gmail.com? I’m sure she’ll give you the details.

  3. Freda Ahenakew was my Cree teacher at U. of S. many years ago. I was asked to be one of the illustrators in Cree language story books along with Ray McCallum and other artists. I’m not fluent in Cree but it wasn’t Freda’s fault. Amazing lady.

  4. Kitatamihin, nika-kiskinwahamkosin Asinîy Wacîsihk, Nêhiyaw Itwêwina Immersion Pre-k class. We voted êwînikamohk 2023 Christmas. I’m grateful for this Cree Literacy network !! Miyo Atoskan

      1. She’d have been teaching this back then, too. I’m sure she’d be pleased that you’re still tuned in to Cree!

  5. Love it Arden. Great job. Looking at songs for my studies. This is such a great resource. Thanks so much

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