Beautiful: Willie Thrasher, translated by Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Indigenous Folk/Rock legend Willie Thrasher and his song “Beautiful” were both new to me when Solomon Ratt presented this translation, so I had to learn more. Perhaps the best piece I found was from the May 2020 issue of Native News Online that identifies his 1981  “Spirit Child” LP as a masterpiece.

Sol says he worked out this translation while out cross-country skiing – echoing Willie line by line, and prepared this karaoke video in the same style to support learners. Text follows below, so you can copy and sing along – with Sol, or with Willie himself.

miyonâkwan waciy
miyonâkwan sîpiy
miyonâkwan askiy
miyonâkwan kîsik

mêtoni miyonâkwan
miyonâkwan ôh ôh
mêtoni miyonâkwan
miyonâkwan ôh

miyonâkwan wâyâhcâw
miyonâkwan kîsik
miyonâkwana sîpiya
miyonâkosiwak mistikwak

mêtoni miyonâkwan
miyonâkwan ôh ôh
mêtoni miyonâkwan
miyonâkwan ôh

miyonâkosiwak awâsisak
miyonâkosiwak kisêyayak
miyonâkosiw pîsim
ita mihcêt kâ-âtayôhkêhk

mêtoni miyonâkwan
miyonâkwan ôh ôh
mêtoni miyonâkwan
miyonâkwan ôh.

From YouTube, here is Willie himself:

Translation of Willie Thrasher tune.


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

How do I love you? (Solomon Ratt, y-dialect)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 is one of the most widely recognized love poems on the planet. The strictly structured poetry that we think of as “classical” in English doesn’t need to be preserved to make it beautiful in Cree. Thanks to Solomon Ratt for providing us with this interpretation grounded in a Cree view of the natural world.

tânisi kâ-isi-sâkihitân? mahti nika-akihtên.
kisâkihitin isko nitahtahk kâ-ohpipayit ta-nakiskawât pîsimwa mîna tipiskâwipîsimwa;
kisâkihitin tâpiskôc wâpikwaniy kâ-nitawêyihtahk ta-minihkwît kimiwan;
kisâkihitin tâpiskôc yôtin kâ-wêpâstahahk kiscikânisa ka-ohpikihki.

How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love you as far as my soul can jump to meet the sun and the moon;
I love you like the flower needs to drink the rain;
I love you like the wind that blows the seeds to grow.

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Poetry, Solomon Ratt | 2 Comments

Covid-19 Safety Reminder (y-dialect)

A Covid-19 reminder from the world’s social distancing champ and your friends at (Notice also the sôskwâc : sâskwâc “minimal pair“!) (Text thanks to Arok Wolvengrey; audio thanks to Solomon Ratt.)

ayapiw mâna sâskwâc.
kîsta mîna: sôskwâc ta-kî-ayapiyan.
“Sasquatch usually stays home. You too: just stay home.”

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

Spirituality: Solomon Ratt (y-, th- and n-dialects)

ahcâhkowin: askiy, kîsik, sîpiy, yôtin:
miyo-wîcêhtowin kâ-kistêyihtamahk kahkiyaw ôhi.

ᐊᐦᒑᐦᑯᐏᐣ:  ᐊᐢᑭᐩ,  ᑮᓯᐠ,  ᓰᐱᐩ,  ᔫᑎᐣ:
ᒥᔪ ᐑᒉᐦᑐᐏᐣ  ᑳ ᑭᐢᑌᔨᐦᑕᒪᕽ  ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ  ᐆᐦᐃ᙮

Spirituality: earth, sky, river, wind:
There is harmony when we respect all of these.


ahcâhkowin: askiy kîsik sîpiy thôtin
mitho-wîcîhtowin kâ-kistîthihtamahk ôho.

ᐊᐦᒑᐦᑯᐏᐣ:  ᐊᐢᑭᐩ  ᑮᓯᐠ  ᓰᐱᐩ  ᖫᑎᐣ
ᒥᖪ ᐑᒌᐦᑐᐏᐣ  ᑳ ᑭᐢᑏᖨᐦᑕᒪᕽ  ᐆᐦᐅ᙮

Spirituality: earth, sky, river, wind:
There is harmony when we respect all of these.


(with thanks to Cameron Adams for audio)

ahcâhkowin: askiy kîsik sîpiy nôtin
mino-wîcîhtowin kâ-kistînihtamahk ôhi.

ᐊᐦᒑᐦᑯᐏᐣ: ᐊᐢᑭᐩ ᑮᓯᐠ ᓰᐱᐩ ᓅᑎᐣ
ᒥᓄ ᐑᒌᐦᑐᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑭᐢᑏᓂᐦᑕᒪᕽ ᐆᐦᐃ᙮

Spirituality: earth, sky, river, wind:
There is harmony when we respect all of these.


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

Blueberry Hill (Karaoke): Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Blueberry Tundra (Alaska): Image credit Erin McKittrick, Ground Truth Trekking.

Yes, we all know it wasn’t actually blueberries Fats Domino was looking for upon Blueberry Hill, but his classic is still  fun to sing any time. Thanks to Solomon Ratt for the freshly translation (and karaoke performance!) so we can listen and sing along.

Alaskan Tundra blueberries in the photo are my tribute to the Blueberry Hill closest to where I’m writing (Baker Lake, Nunavut) though it is definitely more about the chills than thrills this time of year!

iyinimin-waciy (Blueberry Hill)

nimiskāson, iyinimin-wacīhk
iyinimin-wacīhk kā-miskātān
nitēh kāmwātan iyinimin-wacīhk
isko tāpwēwin ē-wāpahtamān

yōtin nīpisīkopāhk
māka kitasotamākēwina
nama ta-ispayinwa.

āta ē-nakasiyan
kiyāpic kisākihitin.
ayisk ē-kī-miskātān

yōtin nīpisīkopāhk
māka kitasotamākēwina
nama ta-ispayinwa.

āta ē-nakasiyan
kiyāpic kisākihitin.
ayisk ē-kī-miskātān

ᐃᔨᓂᒥᐣ ᐘᒋᐩ (Blueberry Hill)

ᓂᒥᐢᑳᓱᐣ, ᐃᔨᓂᒥᐣ ᐘᒌᕽ
ᐃᔨᓂᒥᐣ ᐘᒌᕽ ᑳ ᒥᐢᑳᑖᐣ
ᓂᑌᐦ ᑳᒹᑕᐣ ᐃᔨᓂᒥᐣ ᐘᒌᕽ
ᐃᐢᑯ ᑖᐻᐏᐣ ᐁ ᐚᐸᐦᑕᒫᐣ

ᔫᑎᐣ ᓃᐱᓰᑯᐹᕽ
ᓵᑭᐦᐃᐍᐏᐣ ᓂᑲᒧᐣ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᑭᑕᓱᑕᒫᑫᐏᓇ
ᓇᒪ ᑕ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᓌ᙮

ᐋᑕ ᐁ ᓇᑲᓯᔭᐣ
ᑭᔮᐱᐨ ᑭᓵᑭᐦᐃᑎᐣ᙮
ᐊᔨᐢᐠ ᐁ ᑮ ᒥᐢᑳᑖᐣ
ᐃᔨᓂᒥᐣ ᐘᒌᕽ

ᔫᑎᐣ ᓃᐱᓰᑯᐹᕽ
ᓵᑭᐦᐃᐍᐏᐣ ᓂᑲᒧᐣ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᑭᑕᓱᑕᒫᑫᐏᓇ
ᓇᒪ ᑕ ᐃᐢᐸᔨᓌ᙮

ᐋᑕ ᐁ ᓇᑲᓯᔭᐣ
ᑭᔮᐱᐨ ᑭᓵᑭᐦᐃᑎᐣ᙮
ᐊᔨᐢᐠ ᐁ ᑮ ᒥᐢᑳᑖᐣ
ᐃᔨᓂᒥᐣ ᐘᒌᕽ

Blueberry Hill

I found my thrill
On Blueberry Hill
On Blueberry Hill
When I found you

The moon stood still
On Blueberry Hill
And lingered until
My dream came true

The wind in the willow played
Love’s sweet melody
But all of those vows you made
Were never to be

Though we’re apart
You’re part of me still
For you were my thrill
On Blueberry Hill

The wind in the willow…

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

Falynn Baptiste Christmas Album 2020 (y-dialect)

Here is a special treat for Christmas 2020, ready to launch December 11th from Falynn Baptiste, who is a Cree-Métis woman form Red Pheasant First Nation. Enjoy her YouTube video of O Holy Night below, or listen here to samples from the new album.

Click here to pre-order now – for yourself, or as a gift.

Falynn tells us, “As someone who grew up with her language and culture, I thought it was important to promote the language through song. This is one of the first contemporary Cree Christmas albums out there being distributed on a large platform. It will be for sale on iTunes hopefully around the album release date. I’m selling CDs to help offset the cost of the self-funded project.”

Friends here at Cree Literacy Network have helped with preparation of the lyrics (that will eventually be viewable on Falynn’s site under “Cree Chritmas Lyrics” – but for now you can read and sing along from the following page: 

Learn more about Falynn and her music at

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Christmas, Songs in Cree, Video | Leave a comment

Skinnard’s Simple Man: Art Napoleon (Northern y-dialect)

Thanks to Art Napoleon for permission to share his interpretation of Lynyrd Skinnard’s “Simple Man,” so we can all listen and sing along.

Translating any song text into Cree presents a special kind of challenge. English words are typically short; Cree word forms are typically long, but both need to fit into the same musical phrase.

It is seldom possible for a detailed word-by-word translation – the kind we would expect for ordinary text – to fit into the tight framework of an existing song. It can sound like a mad scramble trying to fit in all those syllables! Instead, song translators usually have to pare down the original English to its core, and translate the broadest concepts. They try to preserve the “hook” (the part that makes the song most memorable), setting aside English words and phrases that are less significant to how the song feels.

This is the technique used by experts like Winston Wuttunee and Dolores Sand. (Actually, Dolores built a perfect example of this into her translation of “Rock Around the Clock.” If you listen closely, and try to count along, you’ll quickly discover which numbers she skipped to make everything fit!)

Like Dolores, and like Winston, Art also relies on a bit of “Art-istic” license to make it all work. Art provided a transcript with his song that I’ve adjusted to Plains Cree SRO. (It can be read in Art’s Northern y-dialect by pronouncing ê as î.)

nimâmâ ê-kî-wîhtamawit
ôta wîtapimin kiya nikosis
kwayas nitohta kâ-wîhtamâtân
ôtê nîkân ka-miyo-âpatan

kiyâm pêyâhtik kâya osâm sôhki
âyiman kîkway kâ-miyâskatin.
iskwêw miskamâso miton kâ-sâkîhisk
kâya wanikiskisi ôtê âwiyak ispimihk.

sâkihitowin kinisitohtên
omisi tôta nikosis kikaskihtân

[Note that Art also sings a verse in English, not transcribed here to avoid lyric copyright infringement.]

Posted in Art Napoleon, Audio (y-dialect), Songs in Cree, Video | 1 Comment

Happy Birthday Solomon Ratt!

There are too many candles on Sol’s cake to count this year. Hope he doesn’t set off the smoke alarm. For his birthday, he asked for new copies of his favourite dictionary, which he has used until they’re falling apart.

So today seems like a good time to present him with links to his favourite dictionary, now in online form through the University of Alberta, First Nations University and Maskwacîs Education. Learn more about the overall project and its contributing team here. Find the dictionary online at

You can look up words in English, or in Cree (in roman or syllabics). It even tries to guess if your spelling isn’t quite right. And for some words (the ones with the speaker icon ) you can even hear the pronunciation(s) of Maskwacîs elders. Another really cool feature is that you can click on the main word in Cree, and open up a whole Cree paradigm that shows you how these words are formed in singular and plural forms, and all the forms where somebody acts on somebody else (past, present and future). All of this depth creates a much richer version of the print dictionary.

Why not start by looking up a few birthday-related words? For example:
miyo : good
tipiska : birthday
wâsaskocênikanisa : little candles
miyawâta : celebrate!
tipiskam wîhkihkasôs : birthday cake

Posted in Birthday, Dictionary, Literacy and Learning | 1 Comment

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. 

Posted in Book News, Books for Language Learners, Cree Books, Cree Cultural Literacy | Leave a comment