Rock Your Mocs Week, 9-16 November 2019

A selection of fine-looking moccasins from Solomon Ratt’s personal collection.

takahkiska kipahkêkinaskisina.
ᑕᑲᐦᑭᓴᑲ ᑭᐸᐦᑫᑭᓇᐢᑭᓇ᙮
Look good wearing your moccasins.  

cihkêyihta ta-kikiskaman kipahkêkinaskisina.
ᒋᐦᑫᔨᐦᑕ ᑕᑭᑭᐢᑲᒪᐣ ᑭᐸᐦᑫᑭᓇᐢᑭᓇ᙮
Be happy to wear your moccasins. 

We love the whole idea of “Rock your Mocs” as to reminder to embrace and celebrate Indigenous heritage by showing off the style and craft that has protected Indigenous feet for aeons. And we love that it’s a whole week this year, because it’s tough for collectors to show off a life-long collection in a single day! Continue reading

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SICC Language Keepers Conference 2019

It’s been quite a few years since I attended the annual SICC Language Keepers conference. It’s fabulous to see how it continues to grow, now under the leadership of Wanda Wilson and her dedicated staff. Some estimated 1000 people in attendance: a powerful collective concern for promoting Indigenous language preservation and revitalization.

It was a delight to greet so many friends, old and new. In addition to the few I caught in photos (captioned above), I got to enjoy genuine in-person face time with Karen Clark of University of Regina Press, Kevin Waddell of SIIT, Heather Souter of University of Manitoba, Charlotte Ross, a former student of the late Freda Ahenakew, now a doctoral student at University of Victoria. (And next time I see that Simon Bird, I’m gonna make them keep snapping until *I* look good too!)

Sincere thanks to everyone who stopped to say tânisi: it’s an honour to know that the work of Cree Literacy Network and its members is finding its way to people who want and need it!

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A Cree Reminiscence from WWI: Rev. Canon Edward Ahenakew

From the January 29, 1921 issue of the Winnipeg Evening Tribune (held in the digital collections of the University of Manitoba Archives), comes a Battle Ballad written by Rev. Canon Edward Ahenakew, looking back on the First World War. 

Ahenakew told the writer, Professor W.I. Allison, that the poem is based in fact, but takes some liberties with the truth. It a reflection on the service of two of Ahenakew’s cousins, James and Johnny Ballendine, both distinguished snipers, one of whom served at Givenchy in 1915. In fact, James Ballendine – whose rifle butt featured 36 notches in 1916, lived to tell the tale, though he carried shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life. 

The fifth stanza is written in Ahenakew’s own Plains Cree, transliterated tentatively into SRO here with help from Arok Wolvengrey:

nikī-itēyihtēn māka
Saskatchewan kitaskīnaw
kā-kī-sākihtāyān māka manitow kīskinam
wiya ayisk atayaniw

Freely translated in the article: “I had hoped – to see again – Saskatchewan, our own land, which I love. But it is the will of God to cut off my life, for His is the governing power.” 

(You can click here to read the original article in its entirety. I’ve been selective here to exclude some of the writer’s self-serving superciliousness.)

Project Gutenberg hosts a e-text version of Canada in Flanders: the Official Story of the Canadian Expeditionary Force by Sir Max Aitken, MP (later Lord Beaverbrook). in which Ballendine is described in Chapter 10: 

July was a sniper’s month. True, every month is a sniper’s month; the great game of sniping never wanes, but the inactivity in other methods of fighting left the field entirely free for the sharpshooter in July.

It was during the fighting at Givenchy in June, 1915, that four snipers of the 8th Canadian Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles) agreed to record their professional achievements from that time forward on the wood of their rifles.

Private Ballendine, one of the four, is from Battleford. He is tall and loosely built. In his swarthy cheeks, black eyes, and straight black hair, he shows his right to claim Canadian citizenship by many generations of black-haired, sniping ancestors. He learned to handle a rifle with some degree of skill at the age of ten years, and he has been shooting ever since. At the present time he carries thirty-six notches on the butt of his rifle. Each notch stands for a dead German—to the best of Ballendine’s belief. One notch, cut longer and deeper into the brown wood than me others, means an officer.

The weapons used by these four snipers are Ross rifles, remodelled to suit their peculiar and particular needs. Each is mounted with a telescopic sight, and from beneath the barrel of each much of the wood of the casing has been cut away. The men do their work by day, as the telescopic sight is not good for shooting in a poor light. They are excused all fatigues while in the trenches and go about their grim tasks without hint or hindrance from their superiors. They choose their own positions from which to observe the enemy and to fire upon him—sometimes in leafy covers behind our front-line trench, sometimes behind our parapet. Very little of their work is done in the “No Man’s Land” between the hostile lines, for there danger from the enemy is augmented by the chance of a shot from some zealous but mistaken comrade. The mention of “No Man’s Land” reminds me that, on the Canadian front, this desolate and perilous strip of land is now called “Canada.” The idea is that our patrols have the upper hand here, night and day—that we govern the region, though we have not stationed any Governor or Resident Magistrate there as yet.

The next generation of Ballendines served in World War II: 

In the Battlefords this year, banners have been made to acknowledge 50 Indigenous veterans, including eight Ballandine brothers – sons of James or Johnny – who fought in World War II. Here’s

Battleford, Sask. honours 50 veterans including 8 Métis brothers

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Honouring Indigenous Veterans 2019

Edward Ahenakew, father of the late Freda Ahenakew.

In honour of Indigenous Veterans Day, and of Remembrance Day coming up, I am proud to share this photo of Edward Ahenakew, given to me by his granddaughter Elaine Greyeyes. Edward was born at Atahkahkoop, SK, and named for his uncle (or great uncle) Rev. Canon Edward Ahenakew, another important pioneering figure in Cree literacy.

I’ve posted before about Checkers Tomkins, a Cree Code-talker during WWII, but this fall I finally stumbled on the beautiful Alex Lazarowich Documentary completed a couple of years ago, with contributions from Checkers’ brothers.

It’s such a gift to remember these veterans, and honour their own words as they spoke them in Cree, and for this, we’re especially grateful to Solomon Ratt for providing transcription of those Cree passages from the video that are subtitled in English. Sol’s transcript follows:

(1:29) tânihk- ôtî kâ-pîs~kâ-pîsiyân?

(1:33 ) ikwa sôskwâc ninohtî-mâton êyikohk ê-kaskêyihtamân

(1:41) môya kihtwâm ôtî nika-pê-(i)tohtân

(1:46) osâm mistahi nimâmitonêyihcikan nitayân ôtê kâ-pê-itohtêyân

(1:53) kâ-pê-awâsisiwiyâhk kayâs

(1:57) osâm mistahi mâmitonêyihcikan

(2:00) sôskwâc ninohtî-mâton iyikohk kayâs….tânisi ê-isi-nâkwahk ôta (2:10)….ikosâni, nîtisânak êkwa kahkiyaw ~ kîsta mîna

(2:14) kahkiyaw namakîkway ~ niwîcîwâkanak, kahkiyaw nama-awiyak êkwa ninisitawêyimâw

(2:40) Charles mâna kî-isiyihkâsow nistês

(2:45) mâk-aya <nick name> mâna nikî-miyânân ~ Chicksees mâna kî-isiyihkâsow. Kahkiyaw awuyakôta – kahkiyaw awiyak ôta êkosi mâna kê-isiyihkâtât Chicksees

(2:54) Check-owi-ore ê-wî-itwêt (?) Checker Tompkins ~ Cicksees~

(5:21) sakimês kâ-pahkisikît

(5:24) ~mosquito bomber~sakimîs ….. kâ-pahkisikît

(6:20) nâpê cô, mâka mîna ka-wîhtamwak ka-nitawi-pahkisikêyêk (6:25) ikwa nîsitanaw niyânanosâp sakimîsak

(6:29) ikwa nikawî-masinahîn ôta, mâka mîna sâsay mîna ta-wîhtamwak ta-nitawi-pahkisikêyêk

(An important cultural footnote from Sol: Where Frank chuckles in the video, he’s most likely reflecting on the nickname Chick-sees, a play on caksîs “Little Penis.” That would have been a constant in-joke amongst Cree-speaking friends, and maybe a select few môniyawak.)

For additional Remembrance Day materials and posts, look for “Remembrance Day” under categories on the right, or follow this link:

Yet another version of the Checkers Tomkins story via Readers Digest:

This one includes additional Cree vocabulary (edited here for SRO):

“So, for example, when they talked about the B17 bomber, they said, “âmow têpakohposâp” (“bee” and “17” in Cree). A Spitfire aircraft became “iskotêw” (“fire” in Cree) and the Mustang translated into “pakwâtastim” (“wild horse” in Cree). To indicate how many aircraft were seen, they would include the appropriate number in Cree: “nîstanaw âmow têpakohposâp pâskisikânân” (20 B17 bombers [we shot]).


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Prayer for Protectors: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

nimawimostamawâwak kahkiyaw kâ-nâkatêyihtahkik kinipîminaw êkwa kitaskinâw. hay hay

ᓂᒪᐏᒧᐢᑕᒪᐚᐘᐠ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑳ ᓈᑲᑌᔨᐦᑕᐦᑭᐠ ᑭᓂᐲᒥᓇᐤ ᐁᑿ ᑭᑕᐢᑭᓈᐤ᙮ ᐦᐊᕀ ᐦᐊᕀ

I pray for all who take care of our water and our land, hay hay.

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

For Darren Okemaysim: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

nikî-wanihânân nitôtêminân
nikî-wanihânân niwîcêwâkaninân
nikî-wanihânân niwâhkômâkaninân
nikî-wanihânân nîtisâninân
nikî-wanihânân tahkahki-iyiniw
awîna mâka?
awîna mâka?
awîna mâka?
awîna mâka takî-âniski-atoskâtahk kitatoskêwin?

ᑳ ᐘᓂᐦᐃᑕᕽ
ᓂᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᓈᐣ ᓂᑑᑌᒥᓈᐣ
ᓂᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᓈᐣ ᓂᐑᒉᐚᑲᓂᓈᐣ
ᓂᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᓈᐣ ᓂᐚᐦᑰᒫᑲᓂᓈᐣ
ᓂᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᓈᐣ ᓃᑎᓵᓂᓈᐣ
ᑭᑲ ᑵᑕᐍᔨᒥᑎᓈᐣ
ᑭᑮ ᓂᐦᑖ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐚᐣ
ᑭᑮ ᓂᐦᑖ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐘᐢᒋᑳᐣ
ᑭᑮ ᓂᐦᑖ ᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑳᐣ
ᑭᑮ ᓂᐦᑖ ᐃᑘᐢᑕᒫᑳᐣ
ᑳ ᐏᓂᐦᑕᕽ
ᓂᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᓈᐣ ᑕᐦᑲᐦᑭ ᐃᔨᓂᐤ
ᐊᐑᓇ ᒫᑲ?
ᐊᐑᓇ ᒫᑲ?
ᐊᐑᓇ ᒫᑲ?
ᐊᐑᓇ ᒫᑲ ᑕᑮ ᐋᓂᐢᑭ ᐊᑐᐢᑳᑕᕽ ᑭᑕᑐᐢᑫᐏᐣ?

When we lost you
We lost a friend;
We lost a companion;
We lost a relative;
We lost a sibling.
It is unfortunate.
We will miss you.
You knew how to speak Cree;
You knew how to write Cree well;
You knew how to teach;
You knew how to translate.
When we lost you
we lost a good person.
Who then?
Who then?
Who then?
Who then is here who can carry on with your work?

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In Memoriam: Darren Okemaysim – Blessings (y-dialect)

A proud day for Darren Okemaysim (right) and for nêhiyawêwin in March 2018 as Darren visited parliament to translate for Robert Falcon Ouellette (left).

There is sad news today of the passing of Darren Okemaysim at the age of 53. miyo-pimohtêho, nitôtêm: Travel well, my friend. May the ancestors greet you with joy.  (Find the official obituary here.

We were blessed to have Darren with us as long as we did, and to witness how much he continued to offer to the Cree language. To honour him, we’d like to share this parable of life’s blessings, popular for years on the internet, to which Darren added Cree point of view. 

nâpêw kâ-kî-itwêt “mâmawôhtâwîmâw, pîkiskwâsin,” kihêw pêhtâkosiw ê-mâtot.
mâka ana nâpêw mwâc ohci-pêhtawêw.

êkosi têpwâtêw, “mâmawôhtâwîmâw pîkiskwâsin,” êkwa kaskitêwinâkwan kîsikohk êkwa kâ-kitôwak pêhtâkosiwak.
mâka môy ohci-pêhtam ana nâpêw.

papâmi-ây-îtâpiw êkwa itêw, “mâmawôhtâwîmâw mahti pê-wâpamin,” êkwa acâhkos kî-wâ-wâskotêpayiw.
mâka môy ohci-nâkatohkêw.

êkwa ana nâpêw têpwêw, “mâmawôhtâwîmâw mahti wâpahtihin mâmâhtâwi-kîkwây,” êkwa nîhtâwikîwin kâ-miyit.
mâka môy ohci-kiskêyihtam ana nâpêw.

êkosi, kî-ati-mâci-mâtow ana nâpêw ê-kitimâkîhtâkwahk, “sâminin mâmawôhtâwîmâw êkwa wâpahtihin ôta ê-ayâyan,” êkosi ani mâmawôhtâwîmâw pê-sâminêw ana nâpêwa.
mâka ana nâpêw sipwêyâmohkêw kamâmak kâ-pê-twêhot.

kiskêyihcikêwin kâ-kiskinohamâkawiyân: êkây pacipayi kîkwây mâmawôhtâwîmâw kâ-kiskinohamâsk môy ka-wâpahtihikawin kâ-isi-nitawêyihtaman.

ᓈᐯᐤ ᑳ ᑮ ᐃᑘᐟ “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ, ᐲᑭᐢᒁᓯᐣ,” ᑭᐦᐁᐤ ᐯᐦᑖᑯᓯᐤ ᐁ ᒫᑐᐟ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᒹᐨ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐯᐦᑕᐍᐤ᙮

ᐁᑯᓯ ᑌᑇᑌᐤ, “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᐲᑭᐢᒁᓯᐣ,” ᐁᑿ ᑲᐢᑭᑌᐏᓈᑿᐣ ᑮᓯᑯᕽ ᐁᑿ ᑳ ᑭᑑᐘᐠ ᐯᐦᑖᑯᓯᐘᐠ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᒨᕀ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐯᐦᑕᒼ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ᙮

ᐸᐹᒥ ᐋᔩᑖᐱᐤ ᐁᑿ ᐃᑌᐤ, “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᒪᐦᑎ ᐯ ᐚᐸᒥᐣ,” ᐁᑿ ᐊᒑᐦᑯᐢ ᑮ ᐚ ᐚᐢᑯᑌᐸᔨᐤ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᒨᕀ ᐅᐦᒋ ᓈᑲᑐᐦᑫᐤ᙮

ᐁᑿ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᑌᐻᐤ, “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᒪᐦᑎ ᐚᐸᐦᑎᐦᐃᐣ ᒫᒫᐦᑖᐏ ᑮᒁᕀ,” ᐁᑿ ᓃᐦᑖᐏᑮᐏᐣ ᑳ ᒥᔨᐟ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᒨᕀ ᐅᐦᒋ ᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑕᒼ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ᙮

ᐁᑯᓯ, ᑮ ᐊᑎ ᒫᒋ ᒫᑐᐤ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᐁ ᑭᑎᒫᑮᐦᑖᑿᕽ, “ᓵᒥᓂᐣ ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᐁᑿ ᐚᐸᐦᑎᐦᐃᐣ ᐆᑕ ᐁ ᐊᔮᔭᐣ,” ᐁᑯᓯ ᐊᓂ ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᐯ ᓵᒥᓀᐤ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐘ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᓯᐻᔮᒧᐦᑫᐤ ᑲᒫᒪᐠ ᑳ ᐯ ᑘᐦᐅᐟ᙮

ᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᒋᑫᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒫᑲᐏᔮᐣ: ᐁᑳᕀ ᐸᒋᐸᔨ ᑮᒁᕀ ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᑳ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒫᐢᐠ ᒨᕀ ᑲ ᐚᐸᐦᑎᐦᐃᑲᐏᐣ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᓂᑕᐍᔨᐦᑕᒪᐣ᙮

The man said, “Creator, speak to me,” and an eagle cried.
But the man did not hear.

So the man yelled, “Creator speak to me!” And the thunder rolled across the sky.
But the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said, “Creator let me see you,” and a star shone brightly.
But the man did not notice.

The man shouted, “Creator show me a miracle,” and a life was born.
But the man did not know.

So the man cried out in despair: “Touch me Creator and let me know that you are here!” Whereupon Creator reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

Moral of the story: Don’t miss out on a blessing because it isn’t packaged the way you expect. 

To find Darren’s other offerings to the Cree Literacy Network, follow this link:

Posted in Darren Okemaysim, In Memoriam | 19 Comments

A quote from Gary Zukov: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Photo and translation into Cree (y-dialect) by Solomon Ratt.

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for translating this hopeful, positive thought from American spiritual teacher Gary Zukay into y-dialect. 

kîspin kipakosêyimon nawac ta-sâkihitohk êkwa nawac ta-kisêwâtisihk ôta askîhk, kiya nîkân sâkihiwê êkwa kisêwâtisi; kîspin kipakosêyimon ta-âstamipayik kostâciwin ôta askîhk âstamipayihtâ kiya kikostâciwin. êwakoni ôhi mêkiwina kakî-mêkin.

ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᑭᐸᑯᓭᔨᒧᐣ ᓇᐘᐨ ᑕ ᓵᑭᐦᐃᑐᕽ ᐁᑿ ᓇᐘᐨ ᑕ ᑭᓭᐚᑎᓯᕽ ᐆᑕ ᐊᐢᑮᕽ, ᑭᔭ ᓃᑳᐣ ᓵᑭᐦᐃᐍ ᐁᑿ ᑭᓭᐚᑎᓯ; ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᑭᐸᑯᓭᔨᒧᐣ ᑕ ᐋᐢᑕᒥᐸᔨᐠ ᑯᐢᑖᒋᐏᐣ ᐆᑕ ᐊᐢᑮᕽ ᐋᐢᑕᒥᐸᔨᐦᑖ ᑭᔭ ᑭᑯᐢᑖᒋᐏᐣ᙮ ᐁᐘᑯᓂ ᐆᐦᐃ ᒣᑭᐏᓇ ᑲᑮ ᒣᑭᐣ᙮


Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Solomon Ratt | 1 Comment

Unifying Written Inuktitut: Choosing Standard Spelling to Support Language Retention

What does a 21st-century Indigenous language sound like? How does it use print to promote literacy and help sustain itself? These questions are the foundation of everything we do at the Cree Literacy Network. Who knew the Inuit have been asking all the same questions? 

You may already know that Inuktitut uses the same syllabic characters as Cree (with the addition of a few additional characters for sounds like NG and V that Cree doesn’t have). In fact, when the missionary Edmund Peck translated the Bible into Inuktitut in 1876, he adapted the characters directly from earlier Cree Bibles. 

You may not know that Inuktitut has struggled with competing spelling systems, that have prevented the language community from effectively developing and sharing the materials that everyone needs to strengthen their grasp on a language threatening to slip away. Just like Cree. 

Last week’s news about the Inuit approach to this problem is particularly fascinating: Through thoughtful consultation and cooperation, the Inuit community created a task group called Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq to research and recommend an Inuktitut orthography that has the best chance of advancing Inuktitut far into the future. Scroll down to find links to national media news reports. 

One of my most exciting moments this fall came when the Iqaluit rock band the Jerry Cans came to Baker Lake, Nunavut to celebrate the expansion of a local mine. I got to sit in a jam-packed community hall, basking in the sound of hundreds of Inuit singing along in Inuktitut. This is what a 21st-century language can sound like. This is the vision that the Cree Literacy Network holds for Cree, knowing (like the AIT) standard spelling can’t do the job alone, but it’s one of the most powerful tools we have. 

Of course, while we cheer on the Inuktitut language, long may it thrive, the Cree Literacy Network also counts its blessings. We have a great head start. Our honorary founders began using Standard Roman Orthography fifty years ago, and the students they trained have never stopped producing and promoting language materials designed to promote and strengthen Cree. We can be proud of how our library of shareable resources continues to grow. 

Here’s the story as reported by CBC:

This version is from Nunatsiaq News: 

National Inuit org approves new unified writing system



Posted in Community News, Learn to Read - SRO, Literacy and Learning, Syllabics | Leave a comment

My Heart Fills with Happiness: 550,000 Books in Plains Cree distributed across Canada

My heart fills with happiness whenever I see the artwork of Governor General’s award-winning illustrator Julie Flett. It swells just a little more to count Julie among the friends of Literacy, Cree language revitalization, and the use of consistent standard spelling (SRO) to promote them both. Julie’s artwork is showcased in this book by Monique Gray Smith which now includes translation into Plains Cree (y-dialect), written in SRO. 

This fall, over 550,000 copies of this book, commissioned by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and the TD Grade One Book Giveaway are being placed in the hands of Grade One children all across Canada. In addition to the English-and-Plains Cree, edition, a separate bilingual edition was created in French-and-Plains Cree. A third, small edition was prepared in Braille, with images described (in both English and Plains Cree) for the visually impaired. 

These 550,000 copies also make a historic first: My Heart Fills with Happiness / sâkaskinêw nitêh miywêyihtamowin ohci is the most widely printed of any Cree language book. Ever. And it’s being shared at no charge, all across Canada. 

Congratulations to each of the many hands that contributed to this beautiful final product. 

Those who are no longer in Grade One can order copies of their own through Orca Books online (or visit their local booksellers). Be prepared for your heart to fill! 

Update: 12 November 2019. Follow this link to find free downloads for parents and educators, including beautiful printable post cards and book marks!

Canadian Children’s Book Centre – English announcement image

Posted in Books for Kids, From the Mainstream | Leave a comment