Have you ever noticed the Cree caption at the top of Cree Literacy Network posts?
miywâsin, kîspin ta-kakwê-nisitohtamêk êkwa mîna a-kakwê-mitoni-wîcihisoyêk anima, ôma nêyihawêwin kîspin kinôhtê-kiskêyihtênâwâw.
There is value indeed in trying to understand the Cree language and also in trying to study it in earnest if you want to learn it.
It’s a quote from The Cree Language Is Our Identity / kinêhiyâwiwininaw nêhiyawêwin: The La Ronge Lectures of Sarah Whitecalf, published in 1993. This book and all of its sister volumes that flowed from the partnership of Freda Ahenakew an H.C. Wolfart are some of the best reasons I know for learning to read in Cree.
Sarah Whitecalf was a great friend and supporter of Dr Freda Ahenakew and the work she did with linguist H.C. Wolfart recording, transcribing and translating the words of Cree Elders, and presenting them in print for future generations with exquisite care. It was my great honour to work with both of them, too, so I can say with some certainty how proud Freda would be to finally see this new volume of Sarah’s texts in print (though it’s taken longer than she would have liked!)
Congratulations to all who worked together to make this happen: H.C. Wolfart, University of Manitoba Press, and Sarah’s son Ted Whitecalf (who wrote the preface and supplied photographs of his late mother).
mitoni niya nêhiyaw / Cree is who I truly am. A life told by Sarah Whitecalf, edited and translated by H.C. Wolfart and Freda Ahenakew, preface by Ted Whitecalf will be available as of 8 April 2021.
The late Sarah Whitecalf (1919-1991) spoke Cree exclusively, spending most of her life at Nakiwacîhk / Sweetgrass Reserve on the North Saskatchewan River. Her experiences and reactions throw fresh light on the lives lived by Plains Cree women on the Canadian prairies over much of the twentieth century.