nikâwiy and awâsis: New Cree names for a planet and a star

Thanks to Alberta teacher Amanda Green and Wilfred Buck and the International Astronomical Union, Star HD 136418 is now officially named “Nikawiy“, which is the Cree word for “mother”, and planet HD 136418b is now officially known as “Awasis“, the Cree word for “child” Read the IAU’s version of the story here.

The Weather Network provides a great write-up at:

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Silent Night: Rhonda Head (y-dialect)

Thanks to Rhonda Head of Opaskwayak First Nation for permission to share her recording  and video (with family photos) of Silent Night. Congratulations from all of us, as well, on the many recognitions and honours that continue to come her way.

Quoting from Ace Burpee’s “Fascinating Manitobans 2019” list:

Rhonda Head: She’s an amazing story. From Opaskwayak Cree Nation, she’s an award-winning classical singer who has performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre. She’s twice survived a brain tumour, is an incredible community organizer, and a published author. She released an autobiography last year title Mezzo Soprano: Memoirs of a Rez Girl.

Rhonda is also preparing for her role as soloist with the Flin Flon Community Choir (“Manitoba’s Biggest Little Choir” under the directorship of my old music school cronies, Mark and Crystal Kolt) when they take New York’s Carnegie Hall by storm next spring.

You can find other recordings of Rhonda’s on YouTube (some in Cree).

And you can find other Christmas songs (with text) and related materials from Christmases past by clicking here, or using the search box on the right.


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Hippopotamus in Cree: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

The late elder Smith Atimoyoo told me once that the Cree are never stuck. I think he meant that they’re innovative problem-solvers, regardless of the circumstances. Which means (in this case) that they use their amazingly flexible and descriptive linguistic powers to create words for “Hippopotamus” that even a hippopotamus would appreciate.

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for this video, and to Arok Wolvengrey for researching the word forms. (I owe you both for the Heather Bishop ear worm (the Canadian kids’ classic, “If you love a Hippopotamus” that I’ve been living with for the last week. I dare you to come up with a Cree equivalent of “tiptoeing hippopotamusly”.)


For those who’d like to slow it down and see how it was put together:


kihci-                           “great”
kispakasakêwi-         “thick-skinned”
mistipwâmi-              “big-thighed”
mahkitôni-                 “big-mouthed”
nîswâpitêwi-             “two-toothed”
atâmipêko-               “underwater”
pimâtakâwi-             “swimming”
kohkôs                       “pig”


“great, thick-skinned, big-thighed, big-mouthed, two-toothed, underwater-swimming pig”

This photo by unknown author is licensed under CC BY-SA

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

Dictionary of Moose Cree (l-dialect)

Thanks to Melissa Saganash for permitting us to share her photos and FaceBook comments about the launch of this newly completed Dictionary of Moose Cree, edited and guided by her brother Dr Kevin (Kepin) Brousseau. Moose Cree (also known as the l-dialect) is spoken around Moose Factory, Ontario, the heart of Moose Cree First Nation, and the launch was held at “The Gathering Place” near the Northern Store in Moose Factory. 

Any dictionary is a labour of love: Melissa’s photos (above and in the gallery below) give us a taste of the breadth of community engagement that makes this one so special. Geraldine Govender, as Director of Language & Cultural Programs and Chair of the Cultural Projects Working Group funded by the Amisk-oo-skow agreement also had a big role to play. I am personally proud to have met two of the contributing elders, Agnes Corston and George Quachegan, in the course of other work for Moose Cree First Nation. The Cree Literacy Network shares every bit of Melissa’s pride and that of the whole MCFN community in unveiling this monumental achievement! 

Today, the Moose Cree First Nation had a special event in their community to launch their brand new Moose Cree Dictionary. For years, my brother Kepin has been working on lexicons and dictionaries. But, this one — this one is incredibly beautiful aside from being the largest single-dialect dictionary to have been published. There’s even a verb conjugation table!

Over 24,000 entries. Twenty-four thousand words that have been carefully researched and verified with expert speakers from the community. Hand-sketched pictures by the one and only Jimmy Tim Whiskeychan to illustrate some very specific words grace the pages of the dictionary. The art cover is from Holly Pichette, another Cree artist. This is a communal labour of love. Love for the language, for the carriers of the language, and the stories their words build.

I don’t know how you do it, but you do. We are very proud of you, brother. Look at how proud Mom was when she held your dictionary after it was delivered! Congratulations on an impressive master work of art.

Because he was hard at work in Timmins, Kepin (who also happens to be a medical doctor) was unable to attend the launch himself (that’s him with the stethoscope in the gallery below). You can also follow his Cree language work on his blog: Kepin’s work on Cree language at his blog:

An online “talking” version of the dictionary (based on the previous print edition) can also be found online at

Find the official Moose Cree First Nation report on the launch here:



Posted in Community News, Dictionaries and Grammars | 2 Comments

Winter Solstice in the Cree Tradition: Wilfred Buck via CBC

In 2017, Anishinaabe reporter Lenard Monkman asked elder Wilfred Buck of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba to share the significance of the winter solstice in the Cree tradition. Their conversation was recorded and animated by CBC Indigenous in “Ask an Elder.”

For additional star vocabulary in SRO, you can also click here:

View additional “Ask an Elder” videos at this link:


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miyo-manitowi-kîsikanisi oskaskêwiki miyopayiwin: W.T. Goodspirit & The Legacies (y-dialect)

Thanks to Wayne Jackson (the driving force behind the FaceBook group Nêhiyawêwin (Cree) Word/Phrase of the Day for permission to share this energetic, singable Christmas recording that is may make you grin from ear to ear.

According to Wayne’s fellow musician Trent Agecoutay, “the idea for the song is to honor and showcase the Cree language in the best way we knew how…thru music. Wayne T. Jackson is singing in Cree and did the translation, so we would love for you to have a listen! Please share with all your cuzzins 😎”

Click here to listen on CD Baby –

Here’s the full Cree text so you can sing along:

miyo-manitowi-kîsikanisi: oskaskêwiki miyopayiwin

ᒥᔪ ᒪᓂᑐᐏ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯ ᐅᐢᑲᐢᑫᐏᑭ ᒥᔪᐸᔨᐏᐣ

Have a good Christmas; in the new year, good things happen.

Listen once, then go to CDBaby and buy a track to support the artists.

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âtayôhkâtitotân: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

âtayôhkâtitotân: âtayôhkêwina anihi tâpiskôc astisiya kâ-sîhcikwâpitahki kinêhiyawâtisiwininaw.

ᐋᑕᔫᐦᑳᑎᑐᑖᐣ: ᐋᑕᔫᐦᑫᐏᓇ ᐊᓂᐦᐃ ᑖᐱᐢᑰᐨ ᐊᐢᑎᓯᔭ ᑳ ᓰᐦᒋᒁᐱᑕᐦᑭ ᑭᓀᐦᐃᔭᐚᑎᓯᐏᓂᓇᐤ᙮

Let’s tell each other our sacred stories: our sacred stories are like the sinew thread that sews tight our Cree cultural traditions.

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Silence Memes: Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

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  1. kâmwâci-itohtî ita kâ-kimoskâcihtâkwahk ika kâ-papâsîsinânowik ika kisikisi piyahtahîthinowin kâ-ayak kipihtowiwinihk.
    ᑳᓎᒋ ᐃᑐᐦᑏᐤ ᐃᑕ ᑳ ᑭᒧᐢᑳᒋᐦᑖᑿᕽ ᐃᑲ ᑳ ᐸᐹᓰᓯᓈᓄᐏᐠ ᐃᑲ ᑭᓯᑭᓯ ᐱᔭᐦᑕᐦᐄᖨᓄᐏᐣ ᑳ ᐊᔭᐠ ᑭᐱᐦᑐᐏᐏᓂᕽ᙮
    Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.’ Desiderata

2. natohta kapihtowêwin: kipîkiskwatikon.
ᓇᑐᐦᑕ ᑲᐱᐦᑐᐍᐏᐣ: ᑭᐲᑭᐢᑿᑎᑯᐣ᙮
Listen to the silence: it speaks to you.

3. natohta! kâ-pêtawâwak kitâniski-wâhkômâkanak kipihtowêwinihk.
ᓇᑐᐦᑕ! ᑳ ᐯᑕᐚᐘᐠ ᑭᑖᓂᐢᑭ ᐚᐦᑰᒫᑲᓇᐠ ᑭᐱᐦᑐᐍᐏᓂᕽ᙮
Listen! You will hear your ancestors in the silence.


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

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments