Baby-related Vocabulary (y-dialect)

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for giving us a start on baby-related vocabulary (audio below), and to Karlee Fellner for letting us share her own, tiny, poster-child, Naatósíniipi Nikosis.

There’s a lot of cultural teaching within the vocabulary Sol assembled: the use of moss in the moss bag (the original disposable diaper), the construction of the moss bag and cradle board, and the nature of a baby swing (that makes its term seem like onomatopoeia). Even in the etymology of a word like oskawâsis where we see the word for child (awâsis), modified with the prefix oski- (meaning young, or new)

But Sol’s short list is just a start: Why not challenge yourself to explore the latest version of the University of Alberta/Maskwacîs Online dictionary, and see how many other baby-related terms you can find there.

You can search in English or in Cree (roman or syllabic). I began with the word “baby”.

When you’re ready for a your next challenge, try pasting the word forms from this list (in roman, syllabic or English) into the search bar, and see how many related forms you can find.

The speaker icon means Native-speaker pronunciation is also included!
Click on underscored entries to see the word in all its available forms (including verb paradigms).
After clicking to open the entry, click on the speaker icon again to find audio from multiple speakers (and who they are!)

oskawâsis    ᐅᐢᑲᐚᓯᐢ    newborn

âsiyân    ᐋᓯᔮᐣ   diaper

astâskamikwa  ᐊsᑖᑲᒥᑿ   ground moss

wâspison   ᐚᐢᐱᓱᐣ   moss bag

tihkinâkan   ᑎᐦᑭᓈᑲᐣ   cradle board

wêwêpison   ᐍᐍᐱᓱᐣ   swing

côcôs   ᒎᒎᐢ  soother

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Dictionaries and Grammars, Learn New Words, Solomon Ratt | Leave a comment

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

I am grateful that a beautiful new bilingual Cree/English book found its way to me this week, thanks to author Jean Miso, and Dolores Greyeyes Sand: ninanâskomon!

The book is titled The Rainbow: A Plains Cree Story interpreted by Jean Miso. Each two-page spread includes a story segment in English and in Plains Cree (including both syllabics and SRO).

This traditional Cree story ties together the colours of the rainbow with gratitude for all of creation. It was gifted to Jean (in English) by Plains Cree Elder and second World War veteran James “Smokey” Tomkins, during her travels in the West, interviewing Indigenous war heroes (for another book).

Tomkins lives in Grouard, Alberta, where he was born. He chose to entrust Jean with the story he had been gifted in Cree some 60 years earlier by Magloire Cardinal, also of the area. Smokey’s photo in the book looked oddly familiar to me, and I was delighted to find his name in the credits of the biographical documentary of his brother, Cree Code Talker Charlie “Checkers” Tomkins.

To honour Indigenous veterans’ concern for language preservation, Jean had her own re-telling translated into Plains Cree by Dolores Greyeyes Sand, and illustrated by Darrell Doxdator, who is also Veteran, and member of the Tuscarora Nation in southern Ontario.

The final result is a beautiful hard-cover, full-color book, suitable for Cree language learners of any age. This book is a beautiful gift for anyone with an interest in Cree language and culture, and profits are committed to Indigenous language revitalization.

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

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Cover your mouth and nose (Solomon Ratt, y, th-dialects)

A mask for all seasons… Photos thanks to Solomon Ratt

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sôskwâc ayapik : Just Stay Home! (all dialects)

photo credit: Solomon Ratt


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Cree Language Warriors (ca. 1990)

All the cool kids in the 1990s.

I’m not sure who took the photo of this good looking, passionate gang of Cree language warriors  kitâhkamêyimonâwâw, but 30+ years later, they’re all still hard at work.

Posed together in this undated photo from SICC, we have: from the back, left to right, Laura Burnouf, Edie Venne, Minnie McKenzie, Jean Okimâsis; front, left to right:  Eleanor Hegland, Solomon Ratt, Arok Wolvengrey.

I’m also not sure who owns this gem of a photo that most recently surfaced on FaceBook, thanks to Belinda Daniels. I’m sharing it anyway to remind us of the extraordinary commitment to Cree language and literacy that that we can all help perpetuate.


Posted in Community News, Identity | 3 Comments

First Nations University Fall 2020 Valedictory

First Nations University October 2020 Valedictorian, Kathryn Netmaker

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for sharing the following video excerpt from the October 2020 Virtual Convocation of First Nations University, emceed jointly in English and Cree by Dustin Brass and Simon Bird (#creesimonsays). The highlight of the video is the Valedictory address of Kathryn Netmaker, whose own Cree language studies (as a môniyâskwêw) made their way very capably into her remarks. It begins about five minutes in.

Bravo to Kathryn, and to all of FNU’s 2020  graduates.

mistahi kikihcêyimitinân ê-yahkohtêyêk.

ᒥᐢᑕᐦᐃ ᑭᑭᐦᒉᔨᒥᑎᓈᐣ ᐁ ᔭᐦᑯᐦᑌᔦᐠ᙮

“We think very highly of you upon your graduation.”

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A Snowy “Minimal Pair” (all dialects)

Fresh as new snow from Solomon Ratt (with apologies for his “cool” pun):

Here’s a cool exercise with ‘maci-‘ And ‘mâci-‘

If you don’t like it snowing:
maci-mispon  “bad/evil snow”  ᒪᒋ ᒥᐢᐳᐣ

If you do like it snowing:
mâci-mispon!  “It begins to snow!”  ᒫᒋ ᒥᐢᐳᐣ

If you don’t like that it’s starting to snow:
maci-mâci-mispon!  “Here comes that darned snow!”  ᒪᒋ ᒫᒋ ᒥᐢᐳᐣ

While I prefer to give recordings of actual speakers to illustrate these things, Sol made me record the audio myself this time (to show that anyone can learn to read SRO):

When the meaning of a word is changed by a single different sound  (in this case, a and â) linguists call it a “minimal pair.” This is one of the reasons it is so important to write long vowels in Cree with macrons or circumflexes.

Here’s is another cool collection of minimal pairs (pun intended this time) to think about and play with (complete with audio):

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In Flanders Fields (2020): Simon Bird (y-dialect)

Thank you to Simon Bird (#CreeSimonSays) for the many hours he has invested in this beautiful multi-media tribute to Indigenous Veterans, built around the traditional Remembrance Day poem in Plains Cree (as translated by Jean Okimāsis and Arok Wolvengrey).

For those who are learning to read along in Cree, the poem’s text appears below the video:

Flanders yikwahaskānihk wāh-wēpāstanwa wāpikwaniya
tastawāyihk pimitāskwahikana kā-nāh-nīpitēstēki
ta-kiskinawācihtāhk ita kā-pimisiniyāhk; ēkwa kīsikohk
aniki ē-sōhkē-nikamocik piyēsīsak ē-pimihācik
ētataw pēhtākosiwak iyikohk ē-māh-matwēwēhk askīhk.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

onakataskēwak niyanān.  namōya māka kayās
nikī-pimātisinān, nikī-mōsihtānān kā-sākāstēk, nikī-wāpahtēnān kā-pahkisimok.
nikī-sākihiwānān mīna nikī-sākihikawinān, māka ēkwa nipimisininān
ōta Flanders yikwahaskānihk.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

kiyawāw ēkwa naskwāhihkok kinōtinākaniminawak
ē-kī-sākōcihikoyāhkik, kitāsōnamātinān
iskotēw; ohpinamok ēkwa kiyawāw.
kīspin ānwēhtawiyāhki niyanān kā-nakataskēyāhk,
namwāc nika-aywēpinān, āta ē-ohpikiki wāpikwaniya
ōta Flanders yikwahaskānihk.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

(Poem originally published here November 2013).


Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Remembrance Day, Simon Bird (#CreeSimonSays) | Leave a comment

Lest We Forget 2020: Solomon Ratt (th- and y-dialects)

Beaded poppies at Wanuskewin Heritage Centre (no date)

What does it mean when we say, “Lest We Forget,” and how do we say it in Cree? 

There are many ways of translating this phrase into Cree, but even in English, “lest” is not a common word anymore – which makes it even more challenging to translate. The phrase “Lest We Forget” usually appears with the poppies we wear for Remembrance Day – with hand-beaded poppies a particularly poignant reminder of the importance of Indigenous Veterans. The poppies themselves are the reminder: they help us ensure that we don’t forget. Here are y- and th-dialect versions of the phrase that capture the traditional English meaning  (with thanks to Solomon Ratt and Arok Wolvengrey). 

ka-kêhcinâhoyahk êkâ ta-kî-wanikiskisiyahk

“Lest we forget” (lit., to make sure that we don’t forget (y-dialect))

ta-kîhcinâhoyahk îkâ ta-waniskisiyahk

“Lest we forget” (lit., to make sure that we don’t forget (th-dialect))

A beaded poppy from Sol’s personal collection. Raised beadwork with quills from his niece, Tammy Joan Ratt.


How to say poppy in Cree? Solomon Ratt suggests: kiskisiwini-wâpikwaniy, lit., “Remembrance flower”

Looking for more Remembrance Day resources? Just look for “Remembrance Day” in the Category pulldown box on the right, including Dolores Greyeyes’ reading of “In Flanders Fields.”

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In the Darkest Night: Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

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