Never Can Say Goodbye!

Maybe I’m the only one, but whenever the topic of “goodbye” in Cree comes up, I’m soon imagining the disco beat of Gloria Gaynor. English speakers are taught from early childhood that politeness demands that we say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome,”  and “hello” or “good day” for formal greeting. They are often astonished to discover that Cree politeness doesn’t demand an exact match for these English forms.

It seems “goodbye” is another of these politeness words: perfectly ordinary for wrapping up a phone call, or a quick chat, but having no direct equivalent in Cree. English has alternatives, too: “bye for now,” “cheers,” “toodle-oo,” or even a two-part formula like, “See you later, alligator.”  “In a while, crocodile.”

People who study the history of English tell us that even “goodbye” didn’t always mean “goodbye” the way it is used today. It came about as a contraction of a longer phrase: “God be with you.”

“Goodbye,” in English, is an idiom: one of those things it’s really hard to translate directly. In a FaceBook discussion a while ago, one commenter did exactly that, writing:

  • “Meewasin [SRO: miywâsin] is good + bye is oma [SRO: ôma].”

A good effort, but not something a real speaker would ever actually say.

We know that words of parting were avoided on the phone: we laugh fondly at the memory of elders who regularly hung up without so much as an “êkosi.” It’s not clear whether they were avoiding the English idea of “goodbye” – or if they were respecting some older rule of Cree culture.

Solomon Ratt describes the words he exchanged with his aunts and uncles whenever they parted (and they’re lovely): 

  • Sol: kîhtwâm ka-wâpamitonaw. Late uncle: ta-kî-ihkin, papimâtisiyahki.
  • Sol: We’ll see each other again. Late uncle: It’s possible, if we are alive.

Maybe the idea of “if we are alive” also hints at why “goodbye” was avoided. It was to be reserved for death, the ultimate, permanent departure. 

Cree has lots of alternatives for “goodbye.” Many of them vary regionally. Here’s a small collection (largely gathered from social media):

  • êkosi: “that’s all” (also used in Manitoba for “thanks”)
  • êkosi mâka: “that’s all then”
  • êkosi pitamâ misawâc mwêstas. “That’s it for now until later anyways.”
  • êtikwê ka-wâpamitin: “I guess I’ll be seeing you.”
  • ikwâni pîthisk îsa mîna: “That’s it, maybe it can happen once again (in the future)”
  • kîhtwâm: “next time”
  • ka-wâpamitin: “I’ll see you”
  • ka-wâpamitonaw âsay mîna: “We’ll see each other again”
  • kimiyo-pimohtêhon: “May you go well”
  • kîhtwâm misawâc ka-wâpamitin “Maybe I’ll see you next time.”
  • kîtahtawê mîna kîhtwâm: “Perhaps one time we’ll meet again.”
  • mwêstas: “Later”
  • pitamâ: “Later”
  • wâciyê/wâciyî: which asks a person to shake hands with you is a common greeting in the n-, l- and th-dialects that is equally appropriate to use in parting (when you likely shake hands again).
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Buffy Sainte-Marie, Starwalker: tr. Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

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

Bighorn Sheep

Thanks to Les Skinner for sharing some new vocabulary today via FaceBook:

Thanks to Les Skinner (aka Miskinâhk Askiy) for letting us share his photo of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, along with terminology he learned from asinîwacîwiyiniwak (Rocky Mountain people):

‘mâyatihkwak’ isiyîhkâsowak: They are called ‘mâyatihkwak’

The local word he was taught for mountain goat is wâpatihk (lit., “white caribou”).


Posted in Learn New Words | Leave a comment

Imagine, translated by Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

Sol’s at it again. This time, John Lennon’s classic Imagine: and all on the first take! No English included here, due to copyright.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m imagining everyone singing along in Cree! 😉


nama-kway kihci-kîsik
wîhcasin kocihtâ
ma-kway mac(i-i)skotîw
ispimihk kîsik poko
kahkithaw ithiniwak
pimâtisiwak, âhâ-â-â

ma-kway piskic-askiya
namôtha âthiman
mwâ-wiyak ta-nipahiht
ma-kway (ay)amihâwin
kahkithaw ithiniwak
wîtaskîm(i)towak, kîtha~~

opowâmisk kitisin
namôtha nîtha poko
askiy wânaskîwin
nama-kway ta-ayâyahk
matwân ka-kaskihtân
ma-kway nohtîkatîwin

kahkithaw ithiniwak
mâtinamâtowak, kîtha ~~
opowâmisk kitisin
namôtha nîtha poko

Posted in Audio (th-dialect), Solomon Ratt, Songs in Cree | 2 Comments

I belong to the earth: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

askîhk nitipêyihtâkosin.

ᐊᐢᑮᕽ ᓂᑎᐯᔨᐦᑖᑯᓯᐣ᙮

I belong to the earth.

The recording above is in y-dialect; th-dialect changes are shown below:

askîhk nitipîthihtâkosin.

ᐊᐢᑮᕽ ᓂᑎᐲᖨᐦᑖᑯᓯᐣ᙮

I belong to the earth.

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

pisiw êkwa acâhkos: A story by Andrea Custer (y-dialect)

Andrea Custer is clearly a romantic at heart, as we saw from her “sweet nothings” for Valentine’s day. This video, featuring illustrations from Nadine and Ailah Carpenter, is her final presentation for one of Solomon Ratt’s advanced Cree classes at First Nations University. Isn’t it amazing what can happen when real speakers really learn to read and write. I rate it five horses out of five! (Thanks, Andrea, for letting me share this for others to enjoy!)

Posted in Andrea Custer, Audio (y-dialect), Video | Leave a comment

Raffi’s Baby Beluga, translated by Ellen Cook (n-dialect)

What a treat to find this video of the K-2 awâsisak from Winnipeg’s Isaac Brock Cree Bilingual Program, proudly belting out Raffi’s “Baby Beluga” translated into Cree by classroom câpân Ellen Cook, and led by classroom teacher Colleen Omand. Even Raffi says they’re great (in the CTV link), and it’s one of his best-known songs.

Big thanks to Ellen Cook for sharing her text with us (scroll down so you can sing along!)

Click here for the story from Winnipeg School Division

And click here for the CTV news story (including Raffi himself: somebody clearly understands the importance of fun and music in teaching).

Most important of all: watch the class’s award-winning video, and admire all those Cree-speakers in training! (I’m so glad we’ve got the words to share here: this song is an instant ear worm. If only I looked and sounded as cute as those kids!)

Raffi: Baby Beluga
Translated into Cree (n-dialect) by Ellen Cook

wapamêkosis kâ-pimâtakât
mitoni wânaw ê-itâtakât
kîsikohk êkwa nipîhk
wâpamêkosis aspin

wâpamêkosis, oh wâpamêkosis

wânaw itê ka-kapâsimocik
ki-ka-kôkîn mîna kimêtawân
mamahkâhan kihcikamihk
nipîy ê-sâsopâcikêyân

wâpamêkosis, oh wâpamêkosis

tipiskâw kikawisimon
tipiskâwipîsim, acâhkosak
wâsowak ê-nipâyan

wâpamêkosis, oh wâpamêkosis
pê-wâpan âsay,
kotak kîsikâw
wîpac ka-waniskân

wâpamêkosis kâ-pimâtakât mitoni wânaw ê-itâtakât
kîsikohk êkwa nipîhk
wâpamêkosis aspin
wâpamêkosis aspin

Baby Beluga (Raffi)

Baby beluga in the deep blue sea
Swim so wild and you swim so free
Heaven above and the sea below
And a little white whale on the go

Baby beluga, baby beluga
Is the water warm
Is your mama home with you, so happy

Way down yonder where the dolphins play
Where you dive and splash all day
Waves roll in and the waves roll out
See the water squirtin’ out of your spout

Baby beluga, oh, baby beluga
Sing your little song
Sing for all your friends, we like to hear you

When it’s dark, you’re home and fed
Curl up, snug in your water bed
Moon is shining and the stars are out
Good night, little whale, good night


Posted in Songs in Cree, Uncategorized, Video | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

kâniyâsihk Spring Hide-tanning Camp, 2021

Thanks to Kevin Lewis for sharing his photos of this spring’s Hide Tanning Camp at Kaniyasihk Culture Camps (it’s fun to see some familiar faces). Here’s what he had to say about it (thanks so much, Kevin!)

Important Covid note: Although they are photographed here without masks, it’s important to acknowledge the great care Kevin and the whole camp consistently took regarding Covid-19. These photos were taken on the last day of an 11-day camp, long enough to be considered an isolation period in itself. The camp location is also isolated by nature effectively eliminating casual visitors. Before and during the camp, all participants were required to comply with national and provincial precautions. All staff are vaccinated, and consistently distanced as much as possible throughout. Tests were done by some staff mid-week and all came back negative. Elders also provided prayers and medicines for staff and campers, along with disinfecting, cleaning as much as a hide tanning camp will allow. Weather was perfect and allowed us to be outside 70% of the time. People slept in their bubbles. Under difficult circumstances (for all of humanity these days) the camp took exceptional measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

asay mîna kotak pahkêkinohkêwin nikîsihtânân ôtê kâniyâsihk Culture Camps ôma kâ-miyoskamihk. mistahi atoskêwin mâka mitoni miywâsin ka-ahkamêyimok. miyo-wîcihitowin, miyo-wâyâwin, kâkîsimôwin nitâpacihitânân êkwa ka-nanâskomâyâhkohk kêhtê-ayak kâ-ahkam-kiskinwahamâkoyâhkok tahto-kîsikâw.

ᐊᓴᐩ ᒦᓇ ᑯᑕᐠ ᐸᐦᑫᑭᓄᐦᑫᐏᐣ ᓂᑮᓯᐦᑖᓈᐣ ᐆᑌ ᑳᓂᔮᓯᕽ Culture Camps ᐆᒪ ᑳ ᒥᔪᐢᑲᒥᕽ᙮ ᒥᐢᑕᐦᐃ ᐊᑐᐢᑫᐏᐣ ᒫᑲ ᒥᑐᓂ ᒥᔼᓯᐣ ᑲ ᐊᐦᑲᒣᔨᒧᐠ᙮ ᒥᔪ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᑐᐏᐣ, ᒥᔪ ᐚᔮᐏᐣ, ᑳᑮᓯᒨᐏᐣ ᓂᑖᐸᒋᐦᐃᑖᓈᐣ ᐁᑿ ᑲ ᓇᓈᐢᑯᒫᔮᐦᑯᕽ ᑫᐦᑌ ᐊᔭᐠ ᑳ ᐊᐦᑲᒼ ᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑯᔮᐦᑯᐠ ᑕᐦᑐ ᑮᓯᑳᐤ᙮

We completed another Hide Tanning Camp at kâniyâsihk Culture Camps this spring. It is a lot of work, but it is good to keep moving forward. In good relations, good health, and prayer is what we used and also to be thankful for the Elders teachings and support as they teach us and pray for us on a daily basis.

(All this and they even made a video!)

Posted in Cree Cultural Literacy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Peepeekisis âtayôhkêwina: Sacred Stories of Peepeekisis Cree Nation

Peepeekisis âtayôhkêwina: Sacred Stories of Peepeekisis Cree Nation is coming out this week (in English and Plains Cree) via Your Nickel’s Worth Press. This is another exciting reward for those working hard to reclaim and revitalize the Cree language.

A couple of weeks ago, I was treated to a pre-release show-and-tell via Zoom (thanks to Solomon Ratt and Jesse Archibald-Barber). I learned that the late Eleanor Brass (who passed away in 1992), had published a collection of stories from Peepeekisis in 1979, under the title, Medicine Boy And Other Cree Tales. In that book, the stories were presented entirely in English, with original artwork by Henry Nanooch.

Forty-some years later, thanks to remarkable support and vision from Brass’s surviving family, this brand new book honours Eleanor Brass’s memory by bringing fresh life to her stories. At the same time, it also brings fresh life to the Cree language, by reclaiming the stories in Plains Cree through the careful translation work of fully fluent speakers, Inez Deiter (a close relation of Brass herself), Darryl Chamakese, and Solomon Ratt. The book is laid out with English and Cree side by side, and is joyfully illustrated by Aleigha Agecoutay (who brings yet another generation of Peepeekisis Cree Nation into the project).

As of today, books can be ordered directly from YNWP, or from Indigo It will also be available soon from Amazon and via McNally Robinson Booksellers.

You can also download this PDF that includes full ordering details: this brochure is ideal for passing on to libraries, schools or other corporate purchasers (to give them a helpful nudge). Bulk or educational purchasers should email the publisher directly: or

I can’t wait to see this one in real life!

Posted in Cree Books, Solomon Ratt | Leave a comment

Congratulations, Belinda Daniels, PhD

tâpwê kihci! kimamihcihinân!

ᑖᐻ ᑭᐦᒋ! ᑭᒪᒥᐦᒋᐦᐃᓈᐣ!

Truly great! You make us proud.

Belinda Daniels, PhD (that’s Dr Belinda Daniels!) completed her interdisciplinary doctoral defense at the University of Saskatchewan yesterday via Zoom, and we are so very pleased for her! Thanks to her supervisor, Dr Debbie Pushor of the College of Education, who was kind enough to capture the moment for the rest of us.

Belinda’s interdisciplinary dissertation is bilingually titled: ē-kakwē nēhiyaw pimātisiyān ōta nīkihk – The Lifelong Journey Home. 

For those who’ve never met her, here’s her bio from UofS: Belinda Daniels is the founder of nēhiyawak Summer Language Experience, and teaches others how to teach Cree as a second language on various First Nations Reserves. Belinda won the Outstanding Canadian Aboriginal Educator Award in 2015 for work in language development, and was one of the 2016 Global Teacher Prize finalist. Belinda is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Saskatchewan and Alberta, and volunteers on several boards such as United Way, Dr. Sterling McDowell Foundation and Indspire.

#nehiyawaklanguageexperience #indigenouslanguagerevitalization

Posted in Book News, Identity | 1 Comment