A gift for ocêhtowi-kîsikâw,* from Arok Wolvengrey and Jean Okimâsis

If your New Year’s resolution is to learn or use more Cree, you will find this downloadable pdf to be a helpful gift!

How to Spell it in Cree was written to help those who are fluent speakers learn to spell in SRO. And if you click the link, you can download your own printable pdf copy as a gift from Jean and Arok, and from the Cree Literacy Network.

Why does spelling matter?

Not long ago on the Facebook Cree Word of the Day Group, somebody complained that Facebook should recognize Cree. A great idea, right? Why not?

Here’s the single biggest reason: Spelling.

Like every other computer program, Facebook needs consistent spelling to make it work. Sure, people can spell words as they please in their posts, but the stuff that the computer uses in the background to make it all work just doesn’t compute when there are spelling errors.

When Facebook recognizes other languages – like French, or Russian or Finnish – it starts by looking for the words in its English dictionary. When it doesn’t find them there, it goes on to other carefully edited dictionaries and language tools that it has stored in the background. When it finds a match, Facebook suggests a translation. When the spelling is wrong, nothing matches and Facebook can only guess. Badly. When the spelling is “just like it sounds to me”? Facebook can’t even guess what language it’s supposed to be.

What’s the next step?

Before we all write to Facebook and tell them to recognize Cree (which is a great idea), we need better agreement amongst ourselves! The standard used by the Cree Literacy Network is Arok Wolvengrey’s Cree: Words, which is based on decades of use by pioneers like the late Freda Ahenakew and Ida McLeod, who devoted their lives to exactly this cause. Their foundation is being used right now to help develop better computer tools for Cree, that rely on standard spelling to work!

So back to this downloadable gift:

To help Facebook learn to recognize Cree, spelling consistently is step one. How to Spell it in Cree is a reference tool designed to help fluent speakers (and for those who wish they were) write Cree in a way that even Facebook might eventually understand. Of course there’s some work involved in reading it and using the rules. But considering the value of Cree language migration to the internet?


*ocêhtowi-kîsikâw, New Year’s Day; lit., ‘kissing day’

**kakwâtaki-miywâsin! lit., ‘It is very good’ In English, one might say, “Priceless”.

One Response

  1. I studied Cree while attending Stone Child College at Rocky Boy Montana, I feel in love with the language and have worked hard to use what I learned, after moving back to western Mont. I have no one to speak with and continue to learn, My biggest problem is not knowing how to pronounce the words, I need to hear it… I am excited to work on this program and so grateful it is available, Thank you

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