Cree Sunrise Song

Facelifted from Tansi! Nehiyawetan:

“We found this on the double-u-double-u-double-u-dot-youtubes (as our dear Elder used to say). It is a beautiful song we think Art Napoleon is singing.”

In the Youtube comments, you will find two versions of the words, and a note from Art’s niece claiming her uncle’s singing with pride. For the Cree Literacy Network, I’ve transcribed Art’s words in SRO (and hope somebody will point out any errors so I can fix them!)

waniskâ! pêtâpan ôma
âsay piyêsîsak kî-nikamowak
ê-miyonâkwan kitaskînaw

Wake up! The sun is coming.
The birds are already singing
How beautiful this land of ours is.

[Photo: Sunrise in the Greyeyes family “Yard” Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Elaine Greyeyes]

25 Responses

  1. Here is another couple versions of this song:

    *waniskâ! (wake up!)
    pêtâpan ôma
 (Sun rays are showing)
    âsay piyêsîsak nikamowak
 (The Birds are already singing)
    pê-miyotâkwan kitaskinaw (Our land is sounding beautiful)

    **waniskâ! (wake up!)
    pêwâpan ôma
 (Its early morning/daylight)
    âsay piyêsîsak nikamowak
 (The Birds are already singing)
    pê-miyonâkwan kitaskinaw (Our land is looking beautiful)

    *from a student (Blue Quills First Nations College Cree Language Program -3 yr B.A. 2011)
    **from from Elder (Ministikwan Lake First Nation, SK 2000)

    1. miywâsin! Thank you, Kevin Lewis! Is this the same song I remember you singing at CILLDI with your beautiful little daughter Sierra several years ago?

    2. There’s changes in this song I was told my late uncle made this song I remember hearing him sing this song when we were kids but correct me if I’m wrong

    1. My mom also told me her Cree nohkum sang this song when she was a child. It’s an old Cree song that was sung and shared many decades ago. Art is not the original songmaker but this is a great recording.

  2. Way back in the ’70s, Winston Wuttunee and Janet Deiter recorded it, Dawna. Perhaps that’s what you’re thinking of.

      1. Yes, it’s on an album called Indian Reservation Blues and more. Arts version is on there, plus a number of other artists.

  3. Is this available anywhere other than YouTube? I’d love to listen to it more often without an internet connection.

    1. Check Art Napoleon’s website. I have two cd’s, Myoskamin and Outta the Woods and I believe the song is on both of those.

  4. This song was so touching to me. I was born in Winnipeg in 1937. My Dad was teaching school in White Fish Bay, Ontario. Our house was part of the one- room schoolhouse. Dad was teacher/dentist & all during the five or more years we were there. I learned a few words & a song sung to me in Cree or Ogibway and I still sing it to my children & grand-children here in CA. I ‘ve also been to Yellowknife where a friend there took me north to a church where I heard the same song I had learned as a child.
    Thank you for the memories! Lots of love, Claudette LaFleche-Giesinger xoxox

  5. I am music teacher in in Valleyview Alberta. A majority of my students are from the Sturgeon Lake First Nations. A student once recommended to me the Cree Sunrise Song (also called the Cree Morning Song). I would LOVE to teach this song, and share it with a group of other music educators at the U of A in a presentation I am doing next Tuesday. It is very important to me that I am respectful of the cree culture and history as I teach this song. It is such a joyful song and I truly hope to help my beautiful students feel gratitude and pride in themselves as we learn it. I also hope that students from all cultural backgrounds feel united as we sing this song of gratitude for the beauty of Nature! Are there traditional roles for men and women in the musical culture, like with kinds of drums, etc? Is there anything special I need to know about how this song is used, traditionally, or as part of ceremony, etc? There is so much I don’t know, but I have a desire to learn and teach this song as authentically as possible. I would never want use something sacred in an unsacred way. I hope my question makes sense. Thank you for your feedback.

    1. I’ve never heard a Cree drum song of any kind that had a different second verse: usually the same words are repeated with each “push-up”. Even for round dance songs with words in English. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one! Maybe somebody else who reads this will know.

      1. Just listened again – I’m getting in deep water here, because I don’t know all the terminology. Most songs have a number of “push ups” – which have two parts: what we (in English) might think of as a verse and a chorus. The verse part may have words (but it doesn’t have to), the chorus part is made up entirely of what musicologists call “vocables” – that is, syllables that don’t mean anything. Sometimes the verse part is sung with vocables instead of words. I think that’s what Art is doing, singing “Weyahey” and so on. In the Cree songs I’ve heard, the vocables are usually made up of vowel sounds, with h, w and y sounds – but no other consonants. Some English examples of vocables: the Christmas Carol Deck the Halls: “Fa la la la la, la la la la” and Old MacDonald Had a Farm: “E-I-E-I-O”.

  6. Hello,

    I’m composing a musical piece to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, and am saluting the autocthonous peoples of Canada in it. I ran across the Cree Sunrise song, which is nicely done, and would like to include the first part of it (waniskâ! pêtâpan ôma âsay piyêsîsak kî-nikamowak ê-miyonâkwan kitaskînaw) but it would help if someone has transcribed the melody into sheet music.

    Would you advise me if you know of someone I might talk with to explore that possibility?

    Doug Mauldin

    1. Hi Doug – Interesting project. I don’t know of any musical transcription of this piece. Having transcribed some FN music myself, though, I know it shouldn’t be too difficult for a composer to listen and prepare one. I’ll be waiting to hear your final product!

      1. Hello, Arden,

        Thank you for your reply. I do seem to be having more difficulty transcribing Cree Sunrise Song than I had hoped, but I’m sure I will succeed. Currently, my idea is to have the sunrise song follow Inuit Lullaby, which I think would be a nice sequence. My hope is to have the medley played by one of the bands of the Ottawa New Horizons Band next spring, but I am exploring other options as well. When things get firmed up, I can let you know, if you’d like; if there is a general mailbox that I could send too, that would be fine.


  7. Hi Arden
    Enjoying the CLN site on a lazy Saturday. I have been doing some research on this song and was told by an elder that it was sing by a crier of sorts to wake people up for the day. Nice versions by Art and the iskwew singers.

  8. Just wondering how it came about that a Cree name (Waniska) was given to a street in Etobicoke, Ontario. Could someone explain?

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