Origins and Adoption of Cree Syllabics: Samara Harp

Thanks to Samara Harp for sharing this really nice new exploration of Origins of Cree Syllabics, published online in the Library and Archives Canada Blog. In it, she challenges the traditional understanding of James Evans role in “creating” syllabics, and points to evidence of several Cree origins.

In addition to the blog post, Samara’s writing about syllabics (in English and translated into Cree) also forms two chapters of the free eBook Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada, an electronic publication of Library and Archives Canada. As LAC describes it:

…the first publication of its kind, featuring 28 essays by First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation authors. Where possible, the texts are presented in the Indigenous language spoken by the people represented in each essay; they are also available in English. The multimedia content featured in this visually engaging e-book was chosen by the authors based on their personal connections to the archival and published material. This includes journals, maps, artwork, photographs, publications and audiovisual recordings from the collections at Library and Archives Canada. Each essay showcases a variety of media that has been recontextualized by the authors, providing unique perspectives that challenge the dominant narrative. This e-book demonstrates the diversity of histories, languages and cultures of Indigenous peoples. For any questions, comments, feedback or suggestions, send an email to

Samara contributes two chapters to the eBook: 2.9 Origin of Cree Syllabics, and 2.10 Adoption of Cree Syllabics. Each chapter is beautifully illustrated, and translated from her original English into Woods Cree. Translation into Cree was provided by Samara’s mother, Jane (McCallum) Glennon, with editorial support from Solomon Ratt. The presentation includes interactive links that allow readers to alternate between Cree SRO, Cree syllabics and English. Watch for the beautiful video of birchbark biting artist Angelique Merasty that provides stunning visual support for Samara’s observations about the role of rotational symmetry in the creation of syllabic characters. If you poke around in the author bios, you can even read and listen as Samara introduces herself.

Of course, Samara’s work is surrounded by equivalent work from other Indigenous writer/researchers affiliated with Library and Archives Canada, each of whom have their work treated to the same loving editorial care. Have I used the word “stunning” yet? This is a gorgeous piece of work.

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