People who use these Cree language resources all the time get a little blind to the wrinkles that can trip new users, so it was good to be reminded the other day how helpful this information can be. Thanks to Kepin Brousseau (who speaks southern inland East Cree) for permission to re-post his comments (with a few added comments and links that I’ve added in brown) from the online Facebook group, Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word/Phrase of the Day. I’m also pleased to include information about some of my favourite books in Cree. I’ve provided links to ordering information, where available, and in some cases, to the resources available directly online.
The online Cree dictionary is a compilation of various sources, some of which are quite inconsistent in terms of spelling (but are still very useful). The most consistent one on there is Wolvengrey’s dictionary – entries from his dictionary are marked (CW).
(The dictionary itself includes a page explaining all of these details: http://www.creedictionary.com/help.php)
Other good resources include The Student’s Dictionary of Literary Plains Cree, which is a dictionary based entirely on actual texts written by Cree speakers I think. However, if I remember correctly, all the words in that dictionary can be found in Wolvengrey’s dictionary anyway.
One of the best dictionaries for Plains Cree, in my opinion, continues to be Albert Lacombe’s 1874 dictionary. If you can deal with his spelling system and learn how to modernize it (it is very close to the SRO), its format is very useful for learning the underlying meanings of words and also the possible forms a word can take. Of course, you have to understand French to use the dictionary.
Faries’ re-edition of Watkins’ 1865 dictionary is very useful as well, but the spelling system used in that dictionary is very different from the SRO, but not impossible to decipher.
Freda Ahenakew’s “Cree Language Structures” is extremely useful for teaching or looking up verb conjugations. Note, however, that Lacombe’s 1874 dictionary comes with a grammar that includes all the conjugations as well, include those that have gone into disuse since the 1800s. Super interesting stuff.
Finally, again in terms of written resources, there are a host of Cree language books written in the SRO that are both interesting to read and useful as learning/teaching resources. Many are still available for purchase, if you hunt for them online. For example:
- pisiskiwak kâ-pîkiskwêcik / Talking Animals. Told by L. Beardy. Edited and translated by H.C. Wolfart. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics, Memoir 5, 1988.*
- kôhkominawak otâcimowiniwâwa / Our Grandmothers’ Lives, as Told in Their Own Words. Told by Glecia Bear et al. Edited and translated by F. Ahenakew & H.C. Wolfart. Saskatoon: Fifth House Publishers, 1992.
[facsimile reprint, with new preface: Canadian Plains Reprint Series, Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina, 1998]
[chapter 5 also issued separately, in a fully expanded orthography: wanisinwak iskwêsisak: awâsisasinahikanis / Two Little Girls Lost in the Bush: A Cree Story for Children, Told by Nêhiyaw / Glecia Bear. Illustrated by J. Whitehead. Saskatoon: Fifth House Publishers, 1991]
- kinêhiyâwiwininaw nêhiyawêwin / The Cree Language is Our Identity: The La Ronge Lectures of Sarah Whitecalf. Edited, translated and with a glossary by H.C. Wolfart & F. Ahenakew. Publications of the Algonquian Text Society /Collection de la Société d’édition de textes algonquiens. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1993.
- kwayask ê-kî-pê-kiskinowâpahtihicik / Their Example Showed Me the Way: A Cree Woman’s Life Shaped by Two Cultures. Told by Emma Minde. Edited, translated and with a glossary by F. Ahenakew & H.C. Wolfart.Edmonton, University of Alberta Press, 1997.
[Alberta Book Award 1998: “Scholarly Title of the Year”]
Online version available through Peel Library, University of Alberta.
- ana kâ-pimwêwêhahk okakêskihkêmowina / The Counselling Speeches of Jim Kâ-Nîpitêhtêw. Edited, translated and with a glossary by F. Ahenakew & H.C. Wolfart.Publications of the Algonquian Text Society / Collection de la Société d’édition de textes algonquiens.Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1998.
- The Student’s Dictionary of Literary Plains Cree, Based on Contemporary Texts [H.C. Wolfart & F. Ahenakew]. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics, Memoir 15, 1998.*
- âh-âyîtaw isi ê-kî-kiskêyihtahkik maskihkiy / They Knew Both Sides of Medicine: Cree Tales of Curing and Cursing Told by Alice Ahenakew. Edited, translated and with a glossary by H.C. Wolfart & Freda Ahenakew. Publications of the Algonquian Text Society /Collection de la Société d’édition de textes algonquiens. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2000.
- piko kîkway ê-nakacihtât: kêkêk otâcimowina ê-nêhiyawastêki. [There’s Nothing She Can’t Do: Kêkêk’s Autobiography Published in Cree]. Edited by H.C. Wolfart and Freda Ahenakew. Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics, Memoir 21, 2010.*
All of these books are transcriptions of speeches/stories told by elderly fluent Cree speakers. They are a gold mine for language learners in terms of learning proper language structures and vocabulary.
Hope this helps!
* Publications of Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics are published and sold only through the Linguistics Department at the University of Manitoba. You will need to send your order in by mail, accompanied by a cheque. Here’s a link to the whole series: