Google Earth Celebrates Indigenous Languages – Including Cree

United Nations Day of Indigenous Peoples – 9 August 2019 – launched a worldwide tribute to Indigenous Languages through Google Earth and its story-telling tool, Voyager. The project, titled “Celebrating Indigenous Languages” encourages users to “Meet Indigenous Speakers and Learn How they’re Keeping their Languages Alive.” And while you listen to audio examples of each language (including four samples of Cree), you can also play with the mapping tool, zooming in and out to see satellite views of the land in the area each speaker calls home. Just click on the Explore button to begin your tour. 

While the news splash was brief, this beautiful tool, created by Raleigh Seamster and her colleagues at Google Earth Outreach, is built to last and to grow with additional languages and language communities added. Raleigh writes about the project (and gives the Cree Literacy Network a fabulous shout-out) in a post on the Google blog “The Keyword” (thanks, Raleigh!) 

As you tour around the world, be sure to stop and listen for the similarities and differences among four distinct Cree language communities (you can also read along in SRO and syllabics). Thanks to these Cree Literacy Network contributors who made it happen: 

Dolores Sand (y-dialect, Muskeg Lake, Saskatchewan)

Wayne Jackson (northern y-dialect, Goodfish Lake, Alberta)

Minnie McKenzie (th-dialect, LaRonge, Saskatchewan)

Ken Paupanekis (n-dialect, Norway House, Manitoba) 

There were some great news stories, too: 

Rachel Crowspreadingwings reported for City News (Winnipeg):

Peter Akman of CTV National News interviewed UVic anthropologist Brian Thom (an Indigenous Mapping connection). Their video feed shows a cursor clicking on the Cree locations (with the photos just off screen!)

Rhiannon Johnson of CBC National News interviewed Dolores Sand:

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kâhkâkiw: The Common Raven (th-dialect)

The raven’s call may be familiar to many, but Cree Literacy followers will immediately recognize the call of our favourite th-dialect speaker, Solomon Ratt, in this newly dubbed narration. (Read the CBC news announcement here.

Congratulations to Hinterland Who’s Who for taking this welcome step, and thanks to Norah Wakula from Power of Babel who arranged the voicing. 

Woods Cree (SRO)Woods Cree (Syllabics)English
kâhkâkiwᑲᐦᑳᑭᐤThe Common Raven
kâhkâkiwak aniki kâ-mâwaci-mihcîticik pithîsîsak.ᑲᐦᑳᑭᐘᐠ ᐊᓂᑭ ᑳ ᒫᐘᒋ ᒥᐦᒌᑎᒋᐠ ᐱᖩᓰᓴᐠ᙮Common Ravens are some of the world’s most cosmopolitan birds.
kakî-miskawâwak misiwîskamihk Canada kapî-askiy kâ-ispathik, î-pimahkamikisicik ôtînâhk mîna pikwâcaskîhk.ᑲᑮ ᒥᐢᑲᐚᐘᐠ ᒥᓯᐑᐢᑲᒥᕽ Canada ᑲᐲ ᐊᐢᑭᕀ ᑳ ᐃᐢᐸᖨᐠ, ᐄ ᐱᒪᐦᑲᒥᑭᓯᒋᐠ ᐆᑏᓈᕽ ᒦᓇ ᐱᒁᒐᐢᑮᕽ᙮They can be found throughout most of Canada year-round, thriving in developed areas and in wild spaces.
kâhkâkiwak aniki kakihtâwîthihtamwak ikwa nanâtohk isi- kitowak ta-pîkiskwâtitocik.ᑲᐦᑳᑭᐘᐠ ᐊᓂᑭ ᑲᑭᐦᑖᐑᖨᐦᑕᒷᐠ ᐃᑿ ᓇᓈᑐᕽ ᐃᓯ- ᑭᑐᐘᐠ ᑕ ᐲᑭᐢᒁᑎᑐᒋᐠ᙮Ravens are very intelligent and use many vocalizations to communicate.
ôko otôtîmâskiwi-pithîsîsak wâh-wîcihitowak mîna mîtawîskiwak.ᐆᑯ ᐅᑑᑏᒫᐢᑭᐏ ᐱᖩᓰᓴᐠ ᐚᐦ ᐑᒋᐦᐃᑐᐘᐠ ᒦᓇ ᒦᑕᐑᐢᑭᐘᐠ᙮These social birds cooperate with each other, and even find time to play!
kâhkâkiwak mithoskamwak ohpikihtâsowina, pîhkinikîwak kâ- mîcisocik.ᑲᐦᑳᑭᐘᐠ ᒥᖪᐢᑲᒷᐠ ᐅᐦᐱᑭᐦᑖᓱᐏᓇ, ᐲᐦᑭᓂᑮᐘᐠ ᑳ- ᒦᒋᓱᒋᐠ᙮Ravens are essential to many ecosystems, keeping them clean by scavenging.
awasimî kinohtî-kiskîthihtînâwâw, natona HWW.caᐊᐘᓯᒦ ᑭᓄᐦᑏ ᑭᐢᑮᖨᐦᑏᓈᐚᐤ, ᓇᑐᓇ HWW.caTo learn more, visit
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Towards a Cree Listening Library: Francis Saysewehum and Sylvia McAdam (Saysewehum)

Francis McAdam Saysewehum, wearing his Treaty 6 medal, and advocating always for honouring the treaties and Cree natural law.

Today we join our prayers for the health of  Elder Francis Saysewehum with those of his daughter Sylvia McAdam Saysewehum and her many friends and followers.

Sylvia, who is known around the world as a founder of Idle No More, credits her parents as her greatest teachers of Cree language, culture and natural law, so it’s an honour to have her permission to archive and share the FaceBook recordings she has made of them. Perhaps this small collection from spring of 2019 can form the beginning of a “Cree Listening Library” where recordings of good speakers can be assembled for viewing online, eventually catalogued and summarized in English, and ultimately, transcribed in SRO. We’ll be adding more as we’re able. 

Francis discusses the expression "mîna kihtwam" McAdam SaysewahumWhitefish LakeSylvia McAdam SaysewahumJune 21, 20195:04
Francis talks about Big Bear McAdam SaysewahumWhitefish LakeSylvia McAdam SaysewahumMay 26, 201910:13
Francis talks about animals McAdam SaysewahumWhitefish LakeSylvia McAdam SaysewahumJune 21, 201912:08
Francis talks about the little people McAdam SaysewahumWhitefish LakeSylvia McAdam SaysewahumMay 26, 20193:27
Francis talks about Frizzle Bear McAdam SaysewahumWhitefish LakeSylvia McAdam SaysewahumJune 21, 201917:17

Here’s an earlier post of video Sylvia shared in 2017, summarized for us by Pearleen Kanewepasikot:


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Teaching Fractions: Barry Ahenakew

Math concepts in Cree are particularly important for immersion classrooms, but they’re not often addressed in language textbooks. Thanks to Elder Barry L. Ahenakew for sharing this lesson on fractions.

Other numbers can be turned into fractional denominators by adding the suffix -os (presumably we could also express “one quarter” as “one fourth” and so on): 

  • mitâtahtomitanawâw = 100 : mitâtahtomitanawâwos = one hundredth (1/100) 
  • nêwo = 4 : nêwos = one fourth (1/4)

To write whole numbers-plus-fractions, use mîna. 

  • pêyak mîna âpihtaw = 1-1/2 
  • nîso mîna niyânan nikotwâsikos = 2-5/6 

Odds and evens: More important math concepts, Barry says people seem to have lost these terms. In the sweat lodge, for example, the number of stones is always nanahi, never kâhtap, though the actual number differs depending on the ceremony. 

  • kâhtap = odd number
  • nanahi = even number 



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Wâhkôhtowin: A Cree Way of Living (Andrea Smith, The Tyee)

Andrea Smith is nominated for a portfolio of work for The Tyee, including a story on a ‘life-changing’ bison harvest. Her Tyee practicum was supported by Journalists for Human Rights. 

In a portfolio of four pieces, journalist Andrea Smith does some beautiful writing about the Cree idea of wâhkôhtowin. The Tyee – in which the pieces were published – defines itself as “a widely read and respected platform for the forward-thinking, fact-based conversation” that Canadians “desperately need to have.” wâhkôhtowin may be old news for Cree people, but it’s definitely a concept that Canadians in general could stand to learn.

The articles, published in early 2019, were written as part of Andrea’s internship with The Tyee as a part of Journalists for Human Rights’ Emerging Indigenous Reporter program were later nominated as a finalist for the JHR/APTN Emerging Indigenous Journalist Award sponsored by the Canadian Association of Journalists. The Tyee report announcing the nomination is also included as a link below:

Wâhkôhtowin: A Cree Way Of Living

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National Indigenous Peoples Day 2019


ᒥᖪ ᐃðᐦᐃᓂᐤ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᐠᒥᓄ ᐃᓂᓂᐤ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᐠᒥᔪ ᐃᔨᓂᐤ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᐠ

A collection of the traditional Cree terms for Cree groups and their neighbours – though through 21st century enlightenment – and decolonization – we try to honour our neighbours by using the names they prefer for themselves! 

nēhiyawak ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐘᐠCree people (y-dialect speakers)
ininiwak ᐃᓂᓂᐘᐠCree people (n-dialect speakers) 
nîhithiwakᓃᐦᐃtᐦᐃᐘᐠCree people (th-dialect speakers)
asiniskāniwak ᐊᓯᓂᐢᑳᓂᐘᐠRock Cree
maskīkoniwak ᒪᐢᑮᑯᓂᐘᐠPeople of the muskeg, often known as Swampy Cree
nahkawiyiniwakᓇᐦᑲᐏᔨᓂᐘᐠSaulteaux people
anishināpiyiniwak ᐊᓂᓯᓈᐱᔨᓂᐘᐠAnishnaabe/Ojibwe people
wêcîpwayânakᐅᒌᐳᐚᓂᐘᐠDene people
pwātak ᑇᑕᐠSioux people (Nakoda, Dakota, Lakota)
asinīpwātak ᐊᓯᓃᑅᑕᐠStoney Nakoda people
kaskitêwayasitak ᑲᐢᑲᑏᐏᔭᓯᑕᐠBlackfoot people
ayiskîmîwakᐊᔨᐢᑮᒦᐘᐠInuit people
âpihtawikosisânak ᐋᐱᐦᑕᐤᑯᓯᓵᓇᐠMétis people

(Thanks, Sol, for the image and audio. My favourite part is the eagle’s syllabic tattoo: ᓴᓬᐊᒧ. Thanks also to Simon Bird for his collection of traditional Cree ethnonyms!) 

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Summary Paradigm Tables: The Decoder Ring of Cree Verbs (y- and th-dialects)

In English, we don’t waste much time with verb conjugations. We can cover almost every possibility (for the simple present, at least) with just one rule: “For 3rd person singular subjects (he/she/it), add an S to the verb stem.”

Try it out by plugging a verb stem into the blanks in the following tables. If the verb requires a direct object (someone or something that it acts on), it is transitive. If the verb doesn’t need a direct object, it is intransitive. English doesn’t use animate/inanimate categories: that cuts our work in half. In fact, many English verb stems can be used either transitively or intransitively. Pretty simple. If we need to know who did what to whom, we just have to look at the pronouns. 

English Intransitive Verb Conjugation Summarysingularplural
1st personI ___We ___
2nd personYou ___[same as 2nd singular]
3rd personHe/she/it ___sThey ___
English Transitive Verb Conjugationsingular subject plural subject
1st personI ___ somethingwe ___ something
2nd personyou ___ something[same as 2nd singular]
3rd person he/she/it ___s somethingthey ___ something

But Cree doesn’t use separate pronouns like English does. In fact, the full complexity of Cree verb tables can be overwhelming when the English system is the only one you know.

Lucky first-language speakers who are immersed in the language from birth learn all these forms by osmosis. The average second-language learner might wish for a decoder ring. A really determined second-language learner – such as Ben Godden – might invest countless hours in his secret laboratory building himself a decoding system (what linguists might call this a summary paradigm table).

Luckily, Ben has not only invested the hours, he has also shared his work. By clicking a simple download link, we can each be the first kid on our block to own our own Cree verb decoder table (summary verb paradigm). And we don’t even have to mail in our box tops (with self-addressed, stamped envelope). Thanks, Ben: you give new meaning to the word âhkamêyimow! 

Get your own copy right here, right now (by downloading and printing the PDF links): 

(PDF y-dialect Verb Table)

PDF th-dialect Verb Table

Have a look at some of Ben’s other work in Cree by visiting his blog at itī kā-nīhithawasinahikāniwik / itē kā-nēhiyawasinahikēhk (Cree Story Writing) Blog

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When we had Sled Dogs (th-dialect, audio)

This lovely new book, released in May 2019, was inspired by trapline stories from childhood memories of LaRonge, Saskatchewan Elder Ida Tremblay who passed away in January 2019. The story, told in English with Woodland Cree words and phrases, follows the seasonal cycle of trapline life.

The Cree-only read-along video that follows below is a gift we can share here in memory of Salamô omisipana: Solomon Ratt’s late older sister. First cousins according to English kinship rules, having mothers who were sisters made Sol and Ida siblings in the Cree tradition. Sol called Ida nimis: my older sister. Thanks from all of us to Miram Körner for permission present Sol’s translation here.  

Find ordering instructions for the print book (in English with Cree phrases) here:


ispî kâ-mâmawinitocik niskak ta-pimihâwocik sâwanohk ikwa okwâskwîpicikîwak î-kîsahkamikisisicik ikospî mâna ispathin ta-nakatamahk nîpin kapîsiwin.

‘nahapik. kipihtowîk.” itwîw nohtâwiy îspî kâ-otinât atimwa atimoministikohk ohci.

“papiyahtak pimôtîhok. papiyahtak pimôtîhok,” nitôsis tîpwîw ispî î-wâstînamowâyahk apoya ohci.

nitâsowahînân mistahi-sâkahikan î-pimiskâyâhk.

aski-pahkwîsikanak maskimotihk î-asowasocik, sôkâw, ikwa tî, acimosisak, ikwa nohkom mîna – kahkithaw kîwîtinohk î-isicimîyâhk misi-cîmânihk î-pôsiyâhk

“tânitahtwâw kiyâpic ta-nipâyahk?’ nikakwîcihkîmon.

“niyânan tipiskâw,” itwîw nikâwiy, î-pah-pimiskât.

“kîkâc cî kitakosininânaw?” nisîmis kakwîcihkîmow.

“kîkâc,” itwîw nohkom î-nayahcikîyâhk kaskîw onikahkpihk.

ispî kâ-misakâyâhk namôtha nikî-ispathihikonân kita-mîtawîyâhk. poko kita-nikohtîyâhk, wîsakîmina kita-mawisoyâhk, wâposwak kita-tâpakwîyâhk, ikwa apahkwân kita-mîsahamâhk.

“atoskîk awâsisak! wîpac wî-pipon,” nikâwiy tîpwîw iskwâhtîmihk ohci.

ispî kâ-ati-ahkwatihk sâkahikana nitâsowakâmânân wâsâw ikwa ninitawi manâhonân maskosiya kita-osîhtamowâyâhkwâw nipîwina atimwak.

“ikwa!” nistîsak itwîwak î-pimitâpîcik ocâpânâskosa.

ispî misîwî askiy kâ-wâpiskâk kôna ohci ikwa pisiskiwak î-kispakayânîcik ikospî nohtâwiy kâ-mâci-wanîhikît.

“apik!” itîw atimwa ispî kâ-îskît ta-wanihikîstawât amiskwa.

ispî kâ-pî-makosîkîsikâk niwâh-wîwîkinînân mîkiwina nitôsis ohci ôtînâhk. nanâtohk mamâhtâwi-kaskikwâsiwina pahkwîsikanimaskimotihk î-kaskikwâtîki aspascikanîkana î-osîhtâniwiki ikwa mîna aspastâkana.

nohtâwiy pôsîhtâw otahtaya ta-atâwâkît atâwîwikamikohk, ta-atâwît aski-pahkwîsikana, kîkisîpâmîciwin, ikwa sôkâw.

“cîskwa!” itwîw nikâwiy. “kâwitha wanikiskisi tî!”

kî-wâhwâhtîw ispî kâ-pî-kîwît nohtâwiy ôtînâhk ohci.


nimis mîthâw kaskikwâtiyiwat, nisîmis sâkihîw ocawâsimisihkâna. ikwa nîtha? kîmôci anima mâka sînipânîkin ohci osîhtâniwin ikwa nikakwâtaki-mithwîthihtîn. nohtâwiy kisâtinam kâ-mâwaci-mithwâsinithik kîkway iskwîyânihk ohci – osâwi-mînisa! î-âhkwatihki ikwa mîna kitohcikani-miscikowacis kâ-nîmihotoyâhk ohci.

kapî-pipon nohtâwiy nâh-nâci-wanihikanîw, nikâwiy mâtahikîw, ikwa nîthanân awâsisak?

nîthanân ikwa niwanihikîskanâmowinân.

“kanawâpam wâpos!” nohkom ikwa kita-wâposo-pahkwîsikanâpohkîw.

cîkakâm nikî-mîtawânân ispî mikisiw kâwi kâ-pî-pimihâwot wâsakâm sîpîhk, î-pakosîthimot ta-maskamât nikikwa okinosîmithiwa.

“piyâhtak ita kâ-mîtawîyîk!” nikâwiy kitahamâwasow. “wîpac kita-mithoskamin.”

ispî kâ-tawâki sâkahikana ikospî kî-ihkin kâwi kita-pimahocikît nohtâwiy. ikwa mîna nipôsihtâsonân cîmânihk.

“kîhtwâm mîna nika-wâpahtîn niwâskahikanis takwâkiki.”

“tânisi nicawâsimisak! tâpwî kikî-misi-ohpikinâwâw!” itwîw nitôsis ispî kâ-misakâyâhk.

“pî-minihkwîk tî! mwîstas mânokîhkîk.”

akâmihk nîpin kapîsiwinihk ohci atimoministik pîhîw atimwa kâwi ta-pî-itôhtîthit.

“mitho-tipiskisik nicîmisisak. wâpahki kika-pî-asamitinâwâw kinosîwak.

athwîpik ikwa, ispî pihtawâyîkwâwi niskak î-mâmawinitocik ta-pimihâwocik sâwanohk isi ikospî kîhtwâm kîwîtinohk kika-itôtîhonaw.   

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Worried Buffalo: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect, audio)

When we think of all the things the Buffalo provided to Plains Cree people, the first thing we usually think of is mîcim: food, especially in the form of paskwâwi-mostosowiyâs: buffalo meat. With this “Worried Buffalo” sketch, Solomon Ratt gathers some of the many, many other ways the parts of the buffalo were used, ensuring that absolutely nothing went to waste. (No wonder the buffalo looks worried!) Scroll past the image to find audio files for each of the buffalo parts. Continue reading

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Congratulations Graduates, 2019

2019 graduates come in all shapes and sizes: we’re proud of every single one!

kahkiyaw kâ-sâposkamêk kikiskinwahamâkosiwiniwâwa kimamihcihinân! kikistêyimâwâwak kiwâhkômâkiniwâwak.

ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑲᓴᐳᐢᑲᒣᐠ ᑭᑭᐢᑭᓇᐧᐦᐊᒪᑯᓯᐃᐧᓂᐊᐧᐊᐧ ᑭᒪᒥᐦᒋᐦᐃᓇᐣ! ᑐ ᐊ ᐅ ᔪᐊ ᑲᑕᐊᑎᐣᐠ ᐅᒼ ᐢᒍᐅ ᔪᐊ ᒪᑫ ᐊᐢ ᐳᐊᐟ! ᑭᑭᐢᑌᔨᒫᐚᐘᐠ ᑭᐚᐦᑰᒫᑭᓂᐚᐘᐠ᙮

To all of you graduating from school you make us proud! You honour your relatives.

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