Gerald Kuehl’s portrait of our Honorary Elder, Bette Spence

Our dearly loved honorary elder Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Spence was just a kid of 99 when  Gerald Kuehl created this remarkable pencil portrait of her in 2019. It’s part of his “Portraits of the Plains” collection.  (Find more of his portraits in his “Portraits of the North” FaceBook group.) What follows below is the bio Kuehl prepared from his interview with Bette, and with her devoted daughter and care-giver, Janet Fontaine. The portrait and bio are shared below with permission, and with gratitude.

When I went to Regina around 1985 to try to learn about Cree music, I had instructions to seek out Mrs Spence. She took me under her wing, even taking me home where she made lunch daily for herself and her husband Ahab, then Director of the Department of Indian Languages, Literature and Linguistics.  I was honoured to share their company, and to see some of her original artwork up close.

One of my favourite outings with Mrs Spence included a visit to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, along with my two sons, then pre-teens. “Holy Cow,” she said, as we stepped into the exhibit of Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard’s legendary cows.

With this last year’s rules of care and isolation and my own travel in the north, a visit over tea and cookies was long overdue. I’m grateful she was able to have a phone visit today, to hear her voice and words of warmth and encouragement, unchanged from the first time we met.

Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Spence

by Gerald Kuehl


When I asked Bette what she remembered about growing up, her eyes twinkled with laughter before offering, “I didn’t.” Despite her ready grin, Betty looks back on an unusual childhood. “As a young girl I spent a lot of years in the hospital. I had TB in the hip.” At three years of age, she spent six years in medical care, leaving just in time to enter school. She attended a day school — similar to a public school — for a few years before moving to a boarding school. “At boarding school we just went to school half a day,” she explained. “The other half a day we did domestic work on the school grounds. You didn’t dare sit down. You had to be doing something.” Bette graduated after six years, then 19 years old. Her next step was attending a college in Toronto, a feat that proved a tremendous challenge due to exceptionally poor eyesight. “She managed because she could hear what the instructors were saying — she memorized that,” her daughter, Janet, explained. “She just couldn’t see what they were writing on the boards.”

After returning from Toronto at 22, she met and married Ahab Spence from Split Lake. Bette’s marriage was hugely defining of her life. “I married Ahab on New Reserve. I didn’t stay there.” Indeed, she didn’t. Janet quickly listed nine places to which the couple moved during their 60 year marriage, concluding, “You move a lot when you are a minister,” as Ahab was. He served as a priest from 1955 to 1963. In 1963 Ahab assumed the role of principal of Pelican Residential School. The following year, he was awarded the LL.D., the highest academic honor given to an Aboriginal Canadian at the time. Bette had an impressive academic accomplishment of her own, completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts shortly after being declared legally blind. [Janet Fontaine achieved accolades and firsts of her own, but that’s a story for another day.]

Bette was rebellious by nature, an attribute that quite literally birthed her greatest causes. “Because of her childhood TB, she was told not to have children,” Janet informed me. But that did not deter Bette; “I was going around bragging, ‘I have a girl! I have a girl!’” she recalled. “My first child and she was happy and healthy as long as she was eating.” Bette went on to have five more children. “That is characteristic of her — that rebel quality,” reflected Janet.

The art embellishing Bette’s living room was crafted by her own hand and touted her reverence of nature. The largest painting was as rich with meaning as it was with color, using snapshots of each season to chronicle a passing year in a single frame. Nature, Bette says, is the “model” for her artwork, though she denies ever capturing its true beauty on canvas. “We will never come close,” she says in her book, “nor begin to compare ourselves with the greatest artist of all, Mother Nature.” A paintbrush was not her only tool, however. Bette was an expert seamstress before her art graced paper. She would stitch scenes into aprons, each one uniquely wrapping her love for nature in her joyous creativity.

Bette Spence turned 100 years of age four days after we first met. Her infectious humor has followed into what she calls “the winter” of her life. She is buoyed by her art and the respect from young people who appreciate this humble woman’s knowledge and wisdom from a life well lived.

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National MMIW Awareness Day, 2021 (n-, th-, y-dialects)

This breathtakingly powerful image is the work of Angela Lightning from Treaty 8 territory, who created and photographed this installation, shared it on FaceBook, and gave us her blessing to share it here. It evokes the memory of those we’ve lost, the promise to never forget, the commitment to continue the search for those still missing, and the pledge to action that will bring these losses to an end. No More Stolen Sisters.

In tribute, Solomon Ratt has given us a single powerful phrase, to be offered prayer-like to the four directions.



We remember them.
We remember them.
We remember them.
We remember them.


Additional MMIW memories and comments in Cree can be found here:


Posted in Audio (n-dialect), Audio (th-dialect), Audio (y-dialect), National MMIW Awareness Day, Solomon Ratt | 1 Comment

sîsîp otâcimowin – Duck’s Story: Grace Masse (th-dialect)

Thanks to Grace Masse, from Brochet, Manitoba for offering this little âcimowin – which she wrote in Cree – for us to share here. She joined us from Brandon via Zoom for February Storytelling, (The photo of duckling sibs thanks to Solomon Ratt.)

Audio provided by Solomon Ratt.

sîsîp otâcimowinDuck's Story
tânisi Grace Masse nitisithihkâson ikwa anohc nika-âcimon. Hello, my name is Grace Masse and today I will tell you a story.
piyak kîsikâw sîsîp mâmitonîthihtamOne-day duck was thinking.
asawâpamîw kotaka sîsîpa He looked around at the other ducks.
tâskôc wîthawâw î-wîcîwâkanicik. They seemed to have friends.
‘tânitî îtokwî wîtha owîcîwakana?’ isi- mâmitonîthihtam.Where were his friend he thought?
î-kisiwâsit ikospî î-kî-paskopitisot omîkwana.He got so upset that he pulled off all his feathers.
î-kî-mosîskatît.He was naked.
kî-kanawâpamisow ikwa môtha kî-nitawîthitam awiya kita-wâpamikot ikospî î-tapisît.He looked at himself and didn’t want anyone to see him so he ran away.
mitoni î-sôhkîpahtât ikwa môtha kiskîthihtam tânitî î-ayât. He ran so fast that he didn’t know where he was.
mwâc î-kî-wâpimât kotaka sîsîpa.He didn’t see any other ducks.
mwâc î-kî-pimithât macî î-kî-paskopitisot.He couldn’t fly to find them because he pulled off his feathers.
î-kî-mâtot. ithikohk î-kî-misi-mâtot ikwa î-nipât.He cried. He cried so much that he fell asleep.
ikospî î-kî-waniskât ikwa î-wâpimât awiya î-kî-papâmohtîthit. He woke up and saw something walking
mwâc kiskîthihtam kîkway anima.He couldn’t make out what it was.
mâmitonîthihtam ikwaHe thought,
“maskwa nâ ana? mahihkan nâ ana?”“Was it a bear? Was it a wolf?”
î-kî-sîkisit ikwa kâsôw awasîw mîtosihk kkwa kîhtwâm î-mâtot ikwa î-pasakwâpit.He was scared that he hid behind a tree and cried again and closed his eyes.
ikospî pîhtam kîkway ikwa tohkâpiw.And then He heard something and open his eyes.
î-wâpamât mistahi mîkwana mwâc kîkway ikosi î-kî-ohci-wâpamât.He saw a lot of feathers something he never seen before
ikospî misiwî mîkwanak pahkisinwak.Then the feathers fell.
osîmisa îsa ana apisi-sîsîp.It was him little brother little duck.
osîmisa î-kî-pimitisahokot ostîsa ikwa î-kî-pîtamowât omîkwana.He followed his brother and brought him his feathers.
kî-wîcihitowak ikwa kîhtwâm î-ahthâcik sîsîp omîkwana. And Helping each other they put duck’s feathers on.
ikospî î-nîsicik pimithâwak ikospî î-kîwîhocik. Then the two of them flew home.
sîsîp otâcimowin – Duck’s Story
By: Grace Masse
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May the force be with you (Solomon Ratt, y-dialect)

For May 4th (Star Wars Day): Sol’s Cree version of “May the force be with you!”

kânikanâ kitâniskohpicikanak ka-wîcêwikwak
May your ancestors go with you.

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Solomon Ratt | Leave a comment

The Rainbow: Read along in Cree

ninanâskomon. I am grateful.

It’s really exciting to see another rich layer added to this beautiful book and story from traditional Cree culture that centres on gratitude. The story told by Alberta Cree Elder and WW2 veteran, James “Smokey” Tomkins was interpreted in English by author Jean Miso, and illustrated by Darrell Doxdator, another Indigenous veteran.

Thanks to Jean and her colleagues, including Dolores Greyeyes Sand who translated Jean’s interpretation into Plains Cree, then lent it her voice, we can now share a complete video presentation of the book’s images with voice-over: another opportunity to listen in Cree and read along.

In addition to the story, the video also features a cameo appearance at the end by James “Smokey” Tomkins, and the video itself is framed by the traditional singing of  the Red Bear Singers from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba.

Scroll past the video to find the November 2020 CLN post that describes the book and ordering instructions in detail. This one belongs in every library in Canada.

The book is available directly from Jean Miso: Click here for ordering details. 

The Rainbow: A Plains Cree Story (y-dialect)

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Expressing gratitude (Kepin Brousseau)

Thanks to Dr Kevin Brousseau for assembling these forms and sharing this overview. It’s interesting that what sometimes looks like regional variation turns out to be understood, and even usable all across the Cree dialect continuum. Here’s what Kevin wrote (with very minor changes stylistic purposes).

Someone recently asked about words of gratitude in #CreeSimonSays. Here is some information on the various words mentioned by people who chimed in.

There is no word in Old Cree that translates exactly to the word ‘thank’ in English. Instead, there are different ways to express gratitude, some of which are used throughout Cree country, while others are used only in certain regions.

ay-ay/hay-hay. This is a reduplication of the word ay, which as an exclamation used to gain someone’s attention in many dialects. It is also used as a noun in Old Cree and is found as a part of nouns in most modern dialects where it literally just means a ‘being’ or ‘thing’ and is also found in demonstratives and pronouns in some dialects, too. As an exclamation to get people’s attention, one can see how it came to be used to express gratitude in some dialects.

êkosi. This is literally a contraction of êko + isi (Old Cree êko + iši). This word, at least in the dialects in Ontario and Quebec, is used in jussive constructions and as a stand alone word roughly translating to ‘may it be so’ or ‘let it be.’ As such it can be used to express acquiescence or acceptance, hence its use to express gratitude in some regions.

kitatamihin. This is a verb based on the root atam-, which refers to pleasing somebody by some gesture. It is the same root used for the verb atamiskawêw, meaning to greet someone. In this form, kitatamihin means “you please me by your gesture” or something to that effect.

kinanâskomitin. This literally is a reduplicated form of kinâskomitin, which literally means “I consent to you” or “I approve to (what) you (say, do, etc.)” In this case, we consent or agree to being given something or for being helped. This way of expressing gratitude is used throughout Cree country, all the way into Quebec and Labrador.

ma(r)siy. This is a French loanword, from ‘merci.’ It literally means ‘thanks.’

mîkwêc. This is an Anishinabe loanword. In their language it is a contraction of ‘mî + gwech,’ which literally translates to ‘that is enough.’ Again, one can see how this came to express gratitude.

tîniki. This is an English loanword, from ‘thank you.’

wînâhkôma. This word appears to be used only in western dialects, so it may have had its origins as a loanword from a yet unidentified language. It was recorded in 1874 in Lacombe’s dictionary and is known in some communities, particularly by the elderly folks. As an exclamation expressing joy or gratitude, it can also form the verb wînâhkômâmêw, meaning ‘he/she expresses joy or gratitude to him/her.’

About Dr Kevin Brousseau:

Although Kevin is a medical doctor, we’re glad that he hasn’t been able to relinquish his passion for linguistics and for his own Cree language, centred in his home community of Waswanipi, Québec. In his “spare time” Kevin maintains four distinct Cree language blogs, all prepared with exquisite care, all designed to broaden our understanding of the Cree language as a whole, from the Rockies to Labrador, from Montana to the Northwest Territories.

Kepin’s Cree Language Blog

Dictionary of Moose Cree

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Sewing & Beading Terms

The vintage treadle sewing machine shown here has little in common with the high-tech, digital equipment being used these days for ribbon appliquée and all kinds of other fancy work. Fortunately, we’re more interested in words!

Here’s a collection of nearly 300 sewing terms, gathered from the itwêwina online dictionary (, but also from Solomon Ratt, and from a project belonging to Andrea Custer and Belinda Daniels. The dictionary is surprisingly rich in sewing and beading vocabulary.

I began by looking up “sewing” then searched whatever other words I could think of (in English) related to clothing construction. You might have fun doing the same, especially since the dictionary also includes audio links with pronunciation for some of these terms (just click on the audio-speaker icon).

To supplement my list, Andrea and Belinda sent the following notes, offered as a family-based language activity. The terms they collected have been incorporated into the longer table, below.

This list is far too long to accompany with a single audio file, but if you look up individual words in  (or copy and paste them into the search field) you may be impressed as I am how many of them now include the little speaker icon indicating an audio link. Some have recordings of several elders pronouncing the same word form.

Beading is an ancient form of art. Traditionally, artisans would use natural materials that were available to them. Materials such as stones, shells, bones, copper and other natural materials. It is an art that demands hours of meticulous work that requires knowledge of art and design. Today, many people do beadwork, and it is a sign of resilience and pride in one’s culture. Children learn first by observing and then by doing. Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can pass on an ancient art while they teach patience and perseverance. 
1. One by one show each item and ask them to repeat in Cree after you.
2. Demonstrate each step slowly and say the words as you do them
3. Offer praise and encourage them to keep trying.
4. Tell them to think good thoughts as they work. Bad thoughts could lead them to make mistakes or hurt themselves.

The following table of terms displays only ten lines at a time, so you’ll need to hit “Next” (at the bottom of the table) to look further. On the other hand, you can enter Cree or English sewing terms into the search box to see what comes up. You might even find a word for “treadle”!

Cree: kaskikwâsowin itwêwinaSewing & Beading Terms
tâniwê paskwahamâtowinwhere are the scissors
nîso âpacihtâ sâponikana; pêyak ohci mîkisak êkwa pêyak ohci ta-sakâstahwacik mîkisakuse two needles: one for the beads and one for tacking the beads down
tâpwê miyonâkwan (ni)truly, it is beautiful!
tâpwê miywâsin! (ni sg.)truly, it is beautiful!
tâpwê miywâsinwa (n pl.) truly, it is beautiful!
nahiyikohkto the proper degree, to the proper extent, just enough, just right, fittingly, appropriately; exact quantity, exact number; evenly; better 
tahkopita kisipanohktie at the end
misicihcânathumbs (of mittens)
tâpisasathread sinew
tâpisiminê ((vai)thread beads
asapâp (na)thread
kâ-wâposâwisicik mîkisakthose yellow beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-wâpiskisicik mîkisakthose white beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-mihkosicik mîkisakthose red beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-nîpâmâyâtisicik mîkisak those purple beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-wâpikwanîwicîkosicik mîkisakthose pink beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-osâwisicik mîkisakthose orange beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-askihtakosick mîkisakthose green beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-sîpihkosicik mîkisak those blue beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
kâ-kaskitêsicik mîkisakthose black beads (animate colour term with animate "bead")
sihtapêh (vta) tack down the beads.
êsawêhkwaksquare needle for sewing leather 
isawêhkwaksquare needle for sewing leather 
yôsk-ayânis soft cloth (e.g., lining)
êsawêhkwakossmall square needle for sewing leather 
isawêhkwakossmall square needle for sewing leather 
sâponikanissmall needle 
ayiwinisissmall article of clothing; [plural:] children's clothes; child's clothing, child's apparel 
wanakwaysleeve; his/her sleeve 
astinwân (ni)sinew
cîstatêyâpiy (ni)sinew
ocîkwahikansewing rod for pleating moccasins 
kaskikwâcikansewing machine; item being sewn 
kaskikwâsopayihcikanissewing machine 
kaskikwâsopayîssewing machine 
kaskikwâswâkansewing machine 
kaskikwâtasew thumbs
pihtawêkin (vta)sew onto lining with sinew
pihtawêkina (vti) sew onto lining with sinew
pihtawêkwâcikêsew lining (i.e., put the lining in the leather part)
kaskikwâta (vti)sew leather
wâskâkwâcikê (vai)sew all the way around
tâpiskâkanscarf, necktie; necklace; handkerchief 
sakâskwahonsafety-pin; button; brooch; buckle; clasp 
masinistahikâkêws/he uses s.t. for embroidering 
kocihtâws/he tries s.t., s/he tries to do s.t.; s/he fits s.t. in 
kocîhtâws/he tries s.t., s/he tries to do s.t.; s/he fits s.t. in 
masinihtatâws/he traces s.t., s/he uses s.t. as a pattern 
tâpisahams/he threads s.t. (e.g. needle) 
kâskiskinikêws/he tears seams, s/he rips seams, s/he detaches things in sewing 
nîmikwâsows/he takes his/her own sewing along 
mâtisikêws/he starts to cut (as a pattern) 
kaskikwâsows/he sews, s/he does his/her own sewing; s/he sews s.t. 
kaskikwâswâkêws/he sews with something, s/he uses something in sewing 
nihtâwikwâsows/he sews well, s/he is a good seamstress; s/he does fancy sewing 
miyokwâsows/he sews well 
akokwâsows/he sews trimming (e.g. on a dress) 
kaskikwâcikâkêws/he sews things with something, s/he uses something to sew things 
mâwasakokwâcikêstamawêws/he sews things together for s.o. 
mâwasakokwâcikêstamâkêws/he sews things together for people 
mâwasakokwâcikêws/he sews things together 
kipostahikêws/he sews things shut 
itistahikêws/he sews things on thus 
kaskikwâcikêws/he sews things CW; He sews by hand, giving attention to detail.
kipokwâcikêws/he sews things closed or together; s/he sews things shut; s/he closes things up by sewing 
miyokwâtams/he sews s.t. well 
nihtâwikwâtams/he sews s.t. well 
sîpostahams/he sews s.t. up (as a rip in his/her own clothes) 
wiyikwâtams/he sews s.t. together, s/he sews s.t. up 
mâmawokwâtams/he sews s.t. together into one, s/he pieces s.t. together in sewing 
mâwasakokwâtams/he sews s.t. together 
mâwasakostahams/he sews s.t. together 
isikwâtams/he sews s.t. thus 
kispakikwâtams/he sews s.t. thickly 
kipostahams/he sews s.t. shut 
kîpikwâtams/he sews s.t. quickly 
itistahams/he sews s.t. on thus 
âniskokwâtams/he sews s.t. on as an extension 
akostahams/he sews s.t. on (as trimming) 
akokwâtams/he sews s.t. on 
nanâtohkokwâtams/he sews s.t. into quilts 
wâwiyêkwâtams/he sews s.t. into a circle 
titipikwanahams/he sews s.t. in overcast stitch (e.g. the spiral loops around the vamp of a moccasin) 
pîmikwâtams/he sews s.t. crooked 
kipokwâtâws/he sews s.t. closed or together; s/he sews s.t. shut; s/he closes s.t. up by sewing 
kipokwâtams/he sews s.t. closed or together 
pîhtawêkwâtams/he sews s.t. as lining into a garment; s/he sews s.t. in between covers, s/he sews covers on s.t. 
kaskikwâtams/he sews s.t. 
nihtâwikwâtêws/he sews s.o. well; s/he sews well for s.o. 
miyokwâtêws/he sews s.o. well 
sîpostahwêws/he sews s.o. up 
mâwasakokwâtêws/he sews s.o. together (e.g. pants) 
mâwasakostahwêws/he sews s.o. together 
isikwâtêws/he sews s.o. thus (e.g. pants) 
kipostahwêws/he sews s.o. shut 
kîpikwâtêws/he sews s.o. quickly 
akostahwêws/he sews s.o. on (as trimming) 
akokwâtêws/he sews s.o. on 
wâwiyêkwâtêws/he sews s.o. into a circle 
pîmikwâtêws/he sews s.o. crooked 
kipokwâtêws/he sews s.o. closed or together 
pîhtawêkwâtêws/he sews s.o. as lining into a garment; s/he sews s.o. in between covers, s/he sews covers on s.o. 
itistahwêws/he sews s.o. (e.g. porcupine-quills) on thus 
kaskikwâtêws/he sews s.o. (e.g. pants); s/he sews for s.o. 
kaskikwâswêws/he sews s.o. 
nanâtohkokwâsiwêws/he sews quilts for people 
nanâtohkokwâcikêws/he sews quilts 
kîpikwâsows/he sews quickly 
nanâtohkokwâsows/he sews patchwork blankets 
kaskikwâtisows/he sews for him/herself 
moscikwâsows/he sews by hand 
mâyikwâsows/he sews badly 
piskihcikwâtams/he sews an extension on s.t. (e.g. canvas) 
piskihcikwâtêws/he sews an extension on s.o. (e.g. pants) 
nanâtohkokwâtêws/he sews a quilt for s.o. 
sîpostahamawêws/he sews (it/him) up for s.o. 
akostahamawêws/he sews (it/him) on for s.o. 
kaskikwâtamawêws/he sews (it/him) for s.o. 
kaskikwâtamâsows/he sews (it/him) for him/herself 
kipokwâtamawêws/he sews (it/him) closed or together for s.o.; s/he sews (it/him) shut for s.o.; s/he closes (it/him) up for s.o. by sewing 
kipokwâtamâkêws/he sews (it/him) closed or together for people; s/he sews (it/him) shut for people; s/he closes (it/him) up for people by sewing 
moscikwâtams/he sew s.t. by hand 
moscikwâtêws/he sew s.o. by hand 
tâpiskahêws/he puts a necklace or collar on s.o. 
sîpâpitêws/he pulls s.o. under; s/he pulls thread under the sewing machine 
cîstahwêws/he pricks s.o., s/he pierces s.o., s/he jabs s.o., s/he spears s.o. with a pointed object; s/he give s.o. an injection, s/he injects s.o., s/he vaccinates s.o. 
sakâskwahams/he pins s.t.; s/he buttons s.t. up; s/he fastens s.t. 
sakâskwahamawêws/he pins (it/him) for s.o.; s/he buttons (it/him) for s.o.; s/he fastens (it/him) for s.o. 
sâpostahams/he pierces s.t. through with a needle 
cîstahêws/he pierces s.o.; s/he gives s.o. an injection, needle; s/he pricks s.o. with an awl or pin 
sâpostahwêws/he pierces s.o. through with a needle 
wâskânams/he makes s.t. go around, s/he turns s.t. (e.g. treadle), s/he cranks s.t. 
miyohtâws/he makes s.t. fit well 
kaskikwâsohêws/he makes s.o. sew 
kaskikwâsohiwêws/he makes people sew 
maskisinihkêws/he makes moccasins
nahisins/he lies properly, comfortably; s/he fits well in something 
nahisimêws/he lays s.o. to fit properly, s/he lays s.o. down comfortably 
nahisimiwêws/he lays people to fit properly, s/he lays people down comfortably 
nôtisins/he is too big (to enter an opening); s/he fails to fit in 
sîhcisiws/he is tightly packed, s/he fits tightly (as in a box) 
masinisins/he is pictured, s/he is represented in embroidery 
nihtâwiminakinikêws/he is good at sewing on beads 
âyîtawisins/he is firmly in place on both sides, s/he fits in on both sides 
tipikwâtams/he hems s.t. 
tipikwâtêws/he hems s.o. 
wanakwâws/he has sleeves 
nahiskams/he has s.t. fit well, s/he fits s.t. well; s/he looks nice in s.t.; s/he looks nicely dressed; s/he wears s.t. becomingly 
nahiskawêws/he has s.o. fit well, s/he fits s.o. well; s/he looks nice in s.o. (e.g. pants); s/he looks nicely dressed; s/he wears s.o. becomingly (e.g. pants); s/he looks good with s.o. 
osâponikaniws/he has a needle 
miyoskams/he has a good fit of s.t., s/he fits s.t. well 
sîhtiskams/he fits s.t. tightly; s/he wears s.t. tight fitting; s/he wears s.t. too small 
sîhtwamohtâws/he fits s.t. on tightly 
pîhtamohtâws/he fits s.t. inside another part 
tâpihtitâws/he fits s.t. in; s/he puts a handle on s.t. 
têpiskams/he fits s.t. (e.g. coat) 
tâpisimêws/he fits s.o. in 
sîhtiskawêws/he fits s.o. (e.g. pants) tightly; s/he wears s.o. tight fitting 
têpiskawêws/he fits s.o. (e.g. pants) 
miyoskawêws/he fits s.o. (e.g. clothing) nicely; s/he is well­suited to s.o. 
kîsikwâtams/he finishes sewing s.t. 
kîsikwâtêws/he finishes sewing s.o. 
kîsikwâsows/he finishes his/her own sewing 
sakwâskwahams/he fastens s.t.; s/he zippers s.t. up 
kikamohêws/he fastens s.o. on, s/he attaches s.o.; s/he puts s.o. (e.g. yarn, ribbon) on something 
nôtiskams/he fails to fit s.t. as it is too small 
nôtiskawêws/he fails to fit s.o. (e.g. pants) as it is too small 
pîmikitams/he embroiders s.t. with quill-work 
tihtipawêkahams/he embroiders s.t. around 
masinistahams/he embroiders s.t. 
tihtipawêkahwêws/he embroiders s.o. around 
masinistahwêws/he embroiders s.o. 
masinistahamawêws/he embroiders (it) for s.o. 
masinistahamâkêws/he embroiders (it) for people 
masinistahowêws/he embroiders (animate) things 
masinistahikêws/he embroiders 
postayiwinisahiwêws/he dresses people, s/he puts clothes on people, s/he makes people put clothes on; s/he clothes people, s/he makes clothes for people, s/he fits people out with clothing 
wiyisams/he cuts s.t. out, s/he cuts s.t. to a pattern 
wiyiswêws/he cuts s.o. out (e.g. a figure in a picture book), s/he cuts s.o. to a pattern 
wiyisamawêws/he cuts a pattern for s.o. 
wiyisamâsows/he cuts a pattern for him/herself, s/he cuts his/her own pattern 
manisowêws/he cuts (animate) things (e.g. with scissors or knife) 
cîstahâskwatêws/he crucifies s.o.; s/he nails or pins s.o. down 
masinihkocikêws/he carves things, s/he carves patterns 
âniskamâcikêws/he buttons things up 
sakipâtams/he buttons s.t. 
sakâskwahwêws/he buttons s.o. up; s/he pins s.o.; s/he fastens s.o. 
âniskamâtêws/he buttons s.o. up 
sakipâtêws/he buttons s.o. (e.g. pants) 
âniskamâsiwêws/he buttons people up 
sakâpâtams/he attaches s.t. by sewing, s/he sews s.t. on 
miyomohcikêws/he adjusts things properly, s/he makes things fit well 
miyomohtâws/he adjusts s.t. properly, s/he makes s.t. fit well 
miyomohêws/he adjusts s.o. properly, s/he makes it fit well 
wâposwayân (na)rabbit fur
âhi asapâp sâponikanihkput your thread on/through your needle
sîpâ ohci astâ kisâponikanput your needle under your hide
sâpostaha pâhkêkinput your needle through your hide
asona (vti) put the good sides together
tahkohc astâ kipâhkêkanimihkput on your hide
asiwacikanpouch, pocket; purse, suitcase; storage container, receptacle; can, jar, vessel 
otinik kimîkisimak sâponikan ohcipick up your beads with your needle
tâpasah (vta)pick up beads (with a needle)
pîwâpiskospenny, cent; coin; wire; needle 
aspisâwâcikanpattern, thing used as a pattern for cutting; a print model 
môswâkanpair of scissors 
omîkiwahpihkêwone who sews tipis, one who makes tipis 
omîkiwâhpihkêwone who sews tipis, one who makes tipis 
sâponikan (ni)needle 
sênipânisnarrow ribbon, piece of silk 
astisak (na)mitts
moccasins (ni)maskisina
maskisinihkêmake moccasins (vai)
astisihkêmake mitts (vai)
misi-sâponikanlarge needle 
asikanihkâkanknitting needle 
kikihtinit mixes into something, it fits well 
tâpisinit lies fit in or strung 
têpastêwit is placed within reach; it has enough room to fit in place 
tihtipawêkahikâtêwit is embroidered round the top (e.g. moccasin) 
miyoskâkowit goes through s.o.'s body with good affect, it does s.o. good (e.g. animate food as actor); it fits s.o. well (e.g. pants) 
nahipayiwit fits well (e.g. a door on a frame) 
miyomonit fits well (as a window in a frame) 
nahihtinit fits well 
sîhtwamowit fits very tightly 
sîhtwamonit fits tightly, it is on tight 
sîhcihtinit fits tightly (as in a box) 
âyîtawihtinit fits on both sides 
têpihtinit fits inside, it has room to fit in 
pîhcihtinit fits inside 
tâpiskopayiwit fits in, s/he falls into place 
tâpipayiwit fits all around 
pîhtawêkwâcikaninside pocket 
sakâskwahonishook and eye; small button, small clasp 
âniskamânhitch, clasp; button 
pâhkêkanhide (i.e., leather)
pahkêkin (ni)hide
cîstaha (vti) go down (through the material beside the bead)
ahtay (na)fur
miyohowinfine apparel
nihtâwikwâsowinfancy sewing 
masinistahikêwinembroidery, embroidered work 
pîmikitêwayiwinisaembroidered clothing 
masinistahikanembroidered article 
tapasinaha masinisâwin tahkohc masinahikanihkdraw the pattern on paper
kaskikwâsowindoing one's sewing, the art of sewing 
masinisâwâcikancut-out pattern 
kîskis ana asapâpcut the thread
manis (vta)cut s.o.
manisâwâs (vta)cut rabbit (or beaver) fur
manisa (vti-1)cut fur
kispisoncuff; wristband 
pê-sâpona (vti)come up (through the material beside the bead with the needle)
nahiskamowinbefitting, fitting well; being adaptable 
amiskwayân (na)beaver fur
mîkisak (na)beads
mîkisihkahkcikêwin beading
mîkisihkahkcikêwin (ni)beading
mîkisihkahcikê (vai)bead
mîkisihkahkcikê (vai)bead
sîpêyihtabe patient
mâyikwâsowinbad sewing, poorly done sewing 
wayiwinarticle of clothing; [plural:] clothing, apparel 
wawêsîhowinadornment with ribbon and flowers (fine apparel; elegant adornment. MD)
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Rock Spirits: Darren Okemaysimipan (y-dialect)

Today, we’re sharing an old FaceBook post from my late friend Darren Okemaysim that unexpectedly popped up on my computer screen this morning. (Cree uses the suffix “pan” to indicate that someone is deceased.) I believe Darren was quoting an unnamed Elder, whom he didn’t name. Because his voice had been burnt through years of cancer treatments, Darren always declined to provide audio, but to help honour his memory, Solomon Ratt has provided audio and editing today, along with this stunning photo taken while hiking at Bourgeau Lake near Banff. We know we’re not alone in missing our dear, late friend. [Sorry: this image is designed for viewing on a larger screen, or for print.]

êkota ohci asinîw-âhcahk, asinîwaciya, ê-ihtakoki. asiniyak pikw-îtê ê-apicik ispatinâhk tâ-takw-âhcahk: nipîhk ahpô ê-apicik âhpô isko kâ-pimohtêyan mêskanâhk ê-apicik. kimôsîhtân êtikwê mâna kêtahtawê tâpiskôt awiyak ê-kâ-kanawâpamisk. tâpwê: nikî-itikawinân kikanawâpamik ana kôhtâwînaw êwak ôhci ôki asiniyak pikw-îtê ka-apicik. êkonik aniki kâ-osâpamikwêyahkok ê-kanawêyimikwêyahkok kôhtâwînawa ohci, êkwa ohcitaw ê-môsîhtâyân awiyak ê-kanawâpamisk. pikw-îte ê-apit asinîw-âhcahk.

And then the rock spirit, the mountains, existed. There are rocks that sit everywhere on a hill with many spirits: they even sit in water and as you walk through a pathway. They sit there, you feel it eventually as though someone is watching you. That is true: we were told that the Father of All was watching you and that is why the rocks are everywhere. They are the ones that watch over you, protection from our Father of All, and you will feel as though someone is watching you. The rock spirit is everywhere.

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To sing at dawn and dusk: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

ka-nikamohk kâ-pêtâpahk mîna kâ-wawâninâkwahk ka-nanâtawihtâniwiw askiy cîhkêyihtamowin ohci: kiyâpic ôma kiskisiwak piyêsîsak.

ᑲ ᓂᑲᒧᕽ ᑳ ᐯᑖᐸᕽ ᒦᓇ ᑳ ᐘᐚᓂᓈᑿᕽ ᑲ ᓇᓈᑕᐏᐦᑖᓂᐏᐤ ᐊᐢᑭᐩ ᒌᐦᑫᔨᐦᑕᒧᐏᐣ ᐅᐦᒋ:
ᑭᔮᐱᐨ ᐆᒪ ᑭᐢᑭᓯᐘᐠ ᐱᔦᓰᓴᐠ᙮

To sing at dawn and at dusk will heal the world with joy:
The birds still remember this.

Paraphrased from Terry Tempest Williams, with thanks to Pearleen Kanewopasikot. The quote seemed like a perfect fit for this robin that sang and posed so perfectly for Sol in front of last night’s Pink Moon.

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Puppy Willows (?)

Who knew that pussy willows could change species in translation?

According to Solomon Ratt, the Cree word for pussy willows is acimosihkânisak, literally, little pretend puppies.

The word includes atim “dog” with its “t” changed to “c” and an “s” at the end to indicating diminutivization. It also includes the same “-kân” suffix found in okimâkân to signify an appointed chief, or a pretend leader. At least Cree and English agree that willow buds remind us of soft things we love.

The willows themselves are nîpisiya (if the branches are red), or atôspiya (if the branches are older, and more orange. Shannon Dumba gave us audio of all three nouns, and threw in an êkwa for style (that’s an inside, Rhythm Ratt joke).

Thanks to Pearleen Kanewopasikot for finding these for us (somewhere northeast of Lubicon Lake), and making us wonder what they’re called. Thanks also to Shannon Dumba who found some, a little more advanced, in Regina. (Since I’m writing this from Nunavut, where spring has barely begun to melt the snow and nothing grows taller than fireweed, I’m really enjoying these photos today!)

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