In Memoriam: Darren Okemaysim – Blessings (y-dialect)

A proud day for Darren Okemaysim (right) and for nêhiyawêwin in March 2018 as Darren visited parliament to translate for Robert Falcon Ouellette (left).

There is sad news today of the passing of Darren Okemaysim at the age of 53. miyo-pimohtêho, nitôtêm: Travel well, my friend. May the ancestors greet you with joy.  (Find the official obituary here.

We were blessed to have Darren with us as long as we did, and to witness how much he continued to offer to the Cree language. To honour him, we’d like to share this parable of life’s blessings, popular for years on the internet, to which Darren added Cree point of view. 

nâpêw kâ-kî-itwêt “mâmawôhtâwîmâw, pîkiskwâsin,” kihêw pêhtâkosiw ê-mâtot.
mâka ana nâpêw mwâc ohci-pêhtawêw.

êkosi têpwâtêw, “mâmawôhtâwîmâw pîkiskwâsin,” êkwa kaskitêwinâkwan kîsikohk êkwa kâ-kitôwak pêhtâkosiwak.
mâka môy ohci-pêhtam ana nâpêw.

papâmi-ây-îtâpiw êkwa itêw, “mâmawôhtâwîmâw mahti pê-wâpamin,” êkwa acâhkos kî-wâ-wâskotêpayiw.
mâka môy ohci-nâkatohkêw.

êkwa ana nâpêw têpwêw, “mâmawôhtâwîmâw mahti wâpahtihin mâmâhtâwi-kîkwây,” êkwa nîhtâwikîwin kâ-miyit.
mâka môy ohci-kiskêyihtam ana nâpêw.

êkosi, kî-ati-mâci-mâtow ana nâpêw ê-kitimâkîhtâkwahk, “sâminin mâmawôhtâwîmâw êkwa wâpahtihin ôta ê-ayâyan,” êkosi ani mâmawôhtâwîmâw pê-sâminêw ana nâpêwa.
mâka ana nâpêw sipwêyâmohkêw kamâmak kâ-pê-twêhot.

kiskêyihcikêwin kâ-kiskinohamâkawiyân: êkây pacipayi kîkwây mâmawôhtâwîmâw kâ-kiskinohamâsk môy ka-wâpahtihikawin kâ-isi-nitawêyihtaman.

ᓈᐯᐤ ᑳ ᑮ ᐃᑘᐟ “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ, ᐲᑭᐢᒁᓯᐣ,” ᑭᐦᐁᐤ ᐯᐦᑖᑯᓯᐤ ᐁ ᒫᑐᐟ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᒹᐨ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐯᐦᑕᐍᐤ᙮

ᐁᑯᓯ ᑌᑇᑌᐤ, “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᐲᑭᐢᒁᓯᐣ,” ᐁᑿ ᑲᐢᑭᑌᐏᓈᑿᐣ ᑮᓯᑯᕽ ᐁᑿ ᑳ ᑭᑑᐘᐠ ᐯᐦᑖᑯᓯᐘᐠ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᒨᕀ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐯᐦᑕᒼ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ᙮

ᐸᐹᒥ ᐋᔩᑖᐱᐤ ᐁᑿ ᐃᑌᐤ, “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᒪᐦᑎ ᐯ ᐚᐸᒥᐣ,” ᐁᑿ ᐊᒑᐦᑯᐢ ᑮ ᐚ ᐚᐢᑯᑌᐸᔨᐤ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᒨᕀ ᐅᐦᒋ ᓈᑲᑐᐦᑫᐤ᙮

ᐁᑿ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᑌᐻᐤ, “ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᒪᐦᑎ ᐚᐸᐦᑎᐦᐃᐣ ᒫᒫᐦᑖᐏ ᑮᒁᕀ,” ᐁᑿ ᓃᐦᑖᐏᑮᐏᐣ ᑳ ᒥᔨᐟ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᒨᕀ ᐅᐦᒋ ᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᑕᒼ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ᙮

ᐁᑯᓯ, ᑮ ᐊᑎ ᒫᒋ ᒫᑐᐤ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᐁ ᑭᑎᒫᑮᐦᑖᑿᕽ, “ᓵᒥᓂᐣ ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᐁᑿ ᐚᐸᐦᑎᐦᐃᐣ ᐆᑕ ᐁ ᐊᔮᔭᐣ,” ᐁᑯᓯ ᐊᓂ ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᐯ ᓵᒥᓀᐤ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐘ᙮
ᒫᑲ ᐊᓇ ᓈᐯᐤ ᓯᐻᔮᒧᐦᑫᐤ ᑲᒫᒪᐠ ᑳ ᐯ ᑘᐦᐅᐟ᙮

ᑭᐢᑫᔨᐦᒋᑫᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒫᑲᐏᔮᐣ: ᐁᑳᕀ ᐸᒋᐸᔨ ᑮᒁᕀ ᒫᒪᐕᐦᑖᐑᒫᐤ ᑳ ᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒫᐢᐠ ᒨᕀ ᑲ ᐚᐸᐦᑎᐦᐃᑲᐏᐣ ᑳ ᐃᓯ ᓂᑕᐍᔨᐦᑕᒪᐣ᙮

The man said, “Creator, speak to me,” and an eagle cried.
But the man did not hear.

So the man yelled, “Creator speak to me!” And the thunder rolled across the sky.
But the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said, “Creator let me see you,” and a star shone brightly.
But the man did not notice.

The man shouted, “Creator show me a miracle,” and a life was born.
But the man did not know.

So the man cried out in despair: “Touch me Creator and let me know that you are here!” Whereupon Creator reached down and touched the man.
But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

Moral of the story: Don’t miss out on a blessing because it isn’t packaged the way you expect. 

To find Darren’s other offerings to the Cree Literacy Network, follow this link:

Posted in Darren Okemaysim, In Memoriam | 19 Comments

A quote from Gary Zukov: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

Photo and translation into Cree (y-dialect) by Solomon Ratt.

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for translating this hopeful, positive thought from American spiritual teacher Gary Zukay into y-dialect. 

kîspin kipakosêyimon nawac ta-sâkihitohk êkwa nawac ta-kisêwâtisihk ôta askîhk, kiya nîkân sâkihiwê êkwa kisêwâtisi; kîspin kipakosêyimon ta-âstamipayik kostâciwin ôta askîhk âstamipayihtâ kiya kikostâciwin. êwakoni ôhi mêkiwina kakî-mêkin.

ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᑭᐸᑯᓭᔨᒧᐣ ᓇᐘᐨ ᑕ ᓵᑭᐦᐃᑐᕽ ᐁᑿ ᓇᐘᐨ ᑕ ᑭᓭᐚᑎᓯᕽ ᐆᑕ ᐊᐢᑮᕽ, ᑭᔭ ᓃᑳᐣ ᓵᑭᐦᐃᐍ ᐁᑿ ᑭᓭᐚᑎᓯ; ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᑭᐸᑯᓭᔨᒧᐣ ᑕ ᐋᐢᑕᒥᐸᔨᐠ ᑯᐢᑖᒋᐏᐣ ᐆᑕ ᐊᐢᑮᕽ ᐋᐢᑕᒥᐸᔨᐦᑖ ᑭᔭ ᑭᑯᐢᑖᒋᐏᐣ᙮ ᐁᐘᑯᓂ ᐆᐦᐃ ᒣᑭᐏᓇ ᑲᑮ ᒣᑭᐣ᙮


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

Unifying Written Inuktitut: Choosing Standard Spelling to Support Language Retention

What does a 21st-century Indigenous language sound like? How does it use print to promote literacy and help sustain itself? These questions are the foundation of everything we do at the Cree Literacy Network. Who knew the Inuit have been asking all the same questions? 

You may already know that Inuktitut uses the same syllabic characters as Cree (with the addition of a few additional characters for sounds like NG and V that Cree doesn’t have). In fact, when the missionary Edmund Peck translated the Bible into Inuktitut in 1876, he adapted the characters directly from earlier Cree Bibles. 

You may not know that Inuktitut has struggled with competing spelling systems, that have prevented the language community from effectively developing and sharing the materials that everyone needs to strengthen their grasp on a language threatening to slip away. Just like Cree. 

Last week’s news about the Inuit approach to this problem is particularly fascinating: Through thoughtful consultation and cooperation, the Inuit community created a task group called Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq to research and recommend an Inuktitut orthography that has the best chance of advancing Inuktitut far into the future. Scroll down to find links to national media news reports. 

One of my most exciting moments this fall came when the Iqaluit rock band the Jerry Cans came to Baker Lake, Nunavut to celebrate the expansion of a local mine. I got to sit in a jam-packed community hall, basking in the sound of hundreds of Inuit singing along in Inuktitut. This is what a 21st-century language can sound like. This is the vision that the Cree Literacy Network holds for Cree, knowing (like the AIT) standard spelling can’t do the job alone, but it’s one of the most powerful tools we have. 

Of course, while we cheer on the Inuktitut language, long may it thrive, the Cree Literacy Network also counts its blessings. We have a great head start. Our honorary founders began using Standard Roman Orthography fifty years ago, and the students they trained have never stopped producing and promoting language materials designed to promote and strengthen Cree. We can be proud of how our library of shareable resources continues to grow. 

Here’s the story as reported by CBC:

This version is from Nunatsiaq News: 

National Inuit org approves new unified writing system



Posted in Community News, Learn to Read - SRO, Literacy and Learning, Syllabics | Leave a comment

My Heart Fills with Happiness: 550,000 Books in Plains Cree distributed across Canada

My heart fills with happiness whenever I see the artwork of Governor General’s award-winning illustrator Julie Flett. It swells just a little more to count Julie among the friends of Literacy, Cree language revitalization, and the use of consistent standard spelling (SRO) to promote them both. Julie’s artwork is showcased in this book by Monique Gray Smith which now includes translation into Plains Cree (y-dialect), written in SRO. 

This fall, over 550,000 copies of this book, commissioned by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and the TD Grade One Book Giveaway are being placed in the hands of Grade One children all across Canada. In addition to the English-and-Plains Cree, edition, a separate bilingual edition was created in French-and-Plains Cree. A third, small edition was prepared in Braille, with images described (in both English and Plains Cree) for the visually impaired. 

These 550,000 copies also make a historic first: My Heart Fills with Happiness / sâkaskinêw nitêh miywêyihtamowin ohci is the most widely printed of any Cree language book. Ever. And it’s being shared at no charge, all across Canada. 

Congratulations to each of the many hands that contributed to this beautiful final product. 

Those who are no longer in Grade One can order copies of their own through Orca Books online (or visit their local booksellers). Be prepared for your heart to fill! 

Update: 12 November 2019. Follow this link to find free downloads for parents and educators, including beautiful printable post cards and book marks!

Canadian Children’s Book Centre – English announcement image

Posted in Books for Kids, From the Mainstream | Leave a comment

môswa kâ-itâpacihiht / How Moose can be Used: Solomon Ratt (th- and y-dialects)

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for his text (and PowerPoint, and reading) and Christine Ravenis for her gorgeous images, shared together in this lesson video. Watch and read along, or scroll down to find text in printable form. Continue reading

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

Thanksgiving 2019: Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

anohc ikwa tahto-kîsikâw:
ninanâskomon ê-mithwâthwâyâcik nicawâsimisak ikwa nôsisimak; ninanâskomon îkâ awasimî î-âpacihtâyân minihkwîwin ikwa maci-maskihkiya; ninanâskomon î-kaskihtâyân ta-kanawâpahtamân askiy tâpiskôc awâsis: ita kahkithaw kîkway î-mâmaskâsâpahtamân kahkithaw kîkway î-mithonâkwahk.
mitho-nanâskomowikîsikanisik tahto-kîsikâw

ᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᐃᑿ ᑕᐦᑐ ᑮᓯᑳᐤ:
ᓂᓇᓈᐢᑯᒧᐣ ᐁ ᒥᙽᙽᔮᒋᐠ ᓂᒐᐚᓯᒥᓴᐠ ᐃᑿ ᓅᓯᓯᒪᐠ; ᓂᓇᓈᐢᑯᒧᐣ ᐄᑳ ᐊᐘᓯᒦ ᐄ ᐋᐸᒋᐦᑖᔮᐣ ᒥᓂᐦᑹᐏᐣ ᐃᑿ ᒪᒋ ᒪᐢᑭᐦᑭᔭ; ᓂᓇᓈᐢᑯᒧᐣ ᐄ ᑲᐢᑭᐦᑖᔮᐣ ᑕ ᑲᓇᐚᐸᐦᑕᒫᐣ ᐊᐢᑭᕀ ᑖᐱᐢᑰᐨ ᐊᐚᓯᐢ: ᐃᑕ ᑲᐦᑭᖬᐤ ᑮᑿᕀ ᐄ ᒫᒪᐢᑳᓵᐸᐦᑕᒫᐣ ᑲᐦᑭᖬᐤ ᑮᑿᕀ ᐄ ᒥᖪᓈᑿᕽ᙮
ᒥᖪ ᓇᓈᐢᑯᒧᐏᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᐠ ᑕᐦᑐ ᑮᓯᑳᐤ!

Today and every day:
I give thanks that my children and my gran
dchildren are healthy; I give thanks that I no longer use alcohol and drugs; I give thanks for the ability to look at the world as would a child: looking at all things in wonder and all things are beautiful.
Happy Thanksgiving everyday!

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

miskanâw – Country Road – Solomon Ratt (th-dialect)

I may be wrong, but this beautiful, flat gravel road, looks like it’s from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. Locals there swear they’ve got the best, flattest rez roads in Saskatchewan, thanks to Milton Greyeyes and his powerful skills with the grader. A road like that is something to be thankful for! (Thanks to Rusty Gardiner for letting me use his wonderful photo, which usually just lurks in the background of the CLN site.)

Of course, some roads are a lot bumpier than others, so thanks, Solomon Ratt for sharing his translation and karaoke talents (and for persisting with me through many technical bumps along my road to video). Lyrics follow below as text (so you can print out the words, or look them up).

🎶 kîkâc kîsikohk, kîwîtinohk
âmaciwîspimowin, mâhtâwi-sîpiy.
pimâtisiwin kayâs ikotî
nikî-mitho-pimâtisiwin, kîwîtinohk.

Almost heaven, up north,
Stanley Mission, Churchill River.
Life long ago,
I had a good life there, up north.
🎶 Chorus:
mîskanaw kîwîhtahin
ninohtî-kîwân ôma.
âmaciwîspimowin, mâhtâwi-sîpiy,
kîwîhtahin mîskanaw.

Country road take me home.
I want to go home.
Stanley Mission, Churchill River.
Take me home, country road
🎶 Bridge:
nipihtawâw mikisiw kîkisîp î-tîpwâsit
î-kiskisomit takî-kîwîwak
otâkosîhk, otâkosîhk.

I hear the eagle this morning calling
Reminding me I should’ve been home
Yesterday, yesterday.
🎶 Chorus:
mîskanaw kîwîhtahin
ninohtî-kîwân ôma.
âmaciwîspimowin, mâhtâwi-sîpiy,
kîwîhtahin mîskanaw.
Country road take me home.
I want to go home.
Stanley Mission, Churchill River.
Take me home, country road
Bridge 2:
mihcîtiwak ikotî sâkwîsiwak,
môswak, ikwa nikikwak,
mahihkanak, amiskwak, ikwa
wacaskosak, wacaskosak.

Over there, there are many mink,
Moose, and otters,
Wolves, beavers, and
Muskrats, muskrats.
🎶 Chorus:
mîskanaw kîwîhtahin
ninohtî-kîwân ôma.
âmaciwîspimowin, mâhtâwi-sîpiy,
kîwîhtahin mîskanaw.

Country road take me home.
I want to go home.
Stanley Mission, Churchill River.
Take me home, country road


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

Wooden and Magnetic Syllabics Sets!

Contact Diane Ellis directly to learn more about these great sets (but be sure to tell her the Cree Literacy Network sent you!) The sets are customized to reflect the language (so Cree sets don’t have Inuit characters, and so on). I hear the Cree sets are already popular at Maskwacîs. Find Diane’s website at, or email her at 

Posted in Resource Catalogs, Syllabics | Leave a comment

Today, I can do anything! (y-dialect)

The Lamouche Family, ready for zip-lining (and any other adventure that may cross their path). 

Sometimes we all need a little encouragement, so after you listen to Sol and repeat (at least) four times, please be sure to pass on the message.* Feel free to print and share as well! Thanks to Lawrence Lamouche, Wayne Jackson and Solomon Ratt for helping to pull this powerful little message of affirmation together, and to Martin Bryan Atkinson for motivating us all. Audio thanks to Solomon Ratt.

*Of course, passing on the message in Cree means you need to know additional verb forms for itôtam “s/he does something this way.” Here’s a table that gives our affirmation with enough verb forms to cover anyone who needs to hear it! 

anohc nika-kî-itôtên kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᓂᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᐣ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, I can do anything
anohc kika-kî-itôtên kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑕᒼ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, you can do anything (singular)
anohc ka-kî-itôtam kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑕᒼ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, s/he can do anything
anohc nika-kî-itôtênân kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᓂᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᓈᐣ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, we can do anything
anohc kika-kî-itôtênaw kahkiyaw kîkway
anohc kika-kî-itôtênânaw kahkiyaw kîkway
ᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᓇᐤ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀ
ᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᓈᓇᐤ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀ
Today, we (including you) can do anything
anohc kika-kî-itôtênâwâw kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑭᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑌᓈᐚᐤ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, you all can do anything
anohc ka-kî-itôtamwak kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑕᒷᐠ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, they can do anything
anohc ka-kî-itôtamiyiwa kahkiyaw kîkwayᐊᓄᐦᐨ ᑲ ᑮ ᐃᑑᑕᒥᔨᐘ ᑲᐦᑭᔭᐤ ᑮᑿᕀToday, those other people can do anything
Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Printable, Solomon Ratt | 1 Comment

Cree Prisoner’s Song: William Burn Stick c. 1966

Might Big Bear, left, and Poundmaker have known this song when they were incarcerated in Stony Mountain penitentiary in Manitoba? (Manitoba Archives/ Big Bear collection/ 3/ N16092)

The late Tyrone Tootoosis, Jr is sorely missed, though his spirit remains with many. I suspect it’s his post from five years ago this week that has the Cree Prisoner’s Song circulating on FaceBook once again. Here’s what Tyrone said then:

Our Elders said that in the fall of 1885 and just before our 8 Cree and Assiniboine Warriors were hanged at Fort Battleford, the prisoners sang a song. All the surrounding reserves were aware of what was going to happen on that fateful day. The Elders say that when it came time for each of them to say their last words, one sang a song, and the Elders say that the song was heard by the people in all the surrounding reserves.

This was and still is Canada’s biggest mass hanging. This story was told by an Elder doing interviews for a book called Loyal Till Death. In an interview with another Elder, he talked about one of these 8 prisoners having a “gift” whereby, in the mornings, the guards would find him sitting outside his jail cell having a smoke. Time and again. By no great co-incidence, this story about the warrior being able to leave his cell anytime he wanted is also in the NWMP Archives. Anyway, I first heard this song a long time ago. Good and sad memories. And, when I lived in the city I used to visit and work with “Moshom” late Simon Kytwayhat and this is one of the songs he used to sing.

The singer on the YouTube recording is William Burn Stick, and the recording seems to come from the 1966 Smithsonian Institution Ethnic Folkways Album No FE4464 – Indian Music of the Canadian Plains, recorded by the Canadian ethnomusicologist Ken Peacock.

Thank you to Solomon Ratt for providing SRO and syllabic transcription of the text (below the video) to accompany the translation that others have provided in comments on the YouTube post.

mêkwâ ê-ayâyân nika-môcikihtân;
êkwa kâ-wî-nipiyâni êkota ninêpin.
êkwa nipiyâni namôya nika-môcikihtân.

ᒣᒁ ᐁ ᐊᔮᔮᐣ ᓂᑲ ᒨᒋᑭᐦᑖᐣ;
ᐁᑿ ᑳ ᐑ ᓂᐱᔮᓂ ᐁᑯᑕ ᓂᓀᐱᐣ᙮
ᐁᑿ ᓂᐱᔮᓂ ᓇᒨᔭ ᓂᑲ ᒨᒋᑭᐦᑖᐣ᙮

While I am living I’ll have fun;
When I die, I’ll die.
And when I die I will have no fun.

Posted in Audio (y-dialect), Cree Cultural Literacy, Songs in Cree | 2 Comments