2016: kisêpîsim / ᑭᓭᐲᓯᒼ / January




Thanks to Solomon Ratt for allowing the Cree Literacy Network to share his 2016 calendar, complete with his own original illustrations. Following his request, we will post one image at the beginning of each month. For those who like to plan a little further in advance, a link to a complete pdf is included here:  2016Calendar.

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A gift for ocêhtowi-kîsikâw,* from Arok Wolvengrey and Jean Okimâsis

How to Spell it in Cree-Cover-front

Wolvengrey and Okimâsis: How to Spell it in Cree.

If your New Year’s resolution is to learn or use more Cree, you will find this downloadable pdf to be a helpful gift!

How to Spell it in Cree was written to help those who are fluent speakers learn to spell in SRO. And if you click the link, you can download your own printable pdf copy as a gift from Jean and Arok, and from the Cree Literacy Network.

Why does spelling matter?

Not long ago on the Facebook Cree Word of the Day Group, somebody complained that Facebook should recognize Cree. A great idea, right? Why not?

Here’s the single biggest reason: Spelling.

Like every other computer program, Facebook needs consistent spelling to make it work. Sure, people can spell words as they please in their posts, but the stuff that the computer uses in the background to make it all work just doesn’t compute when there are spelling errors.

When Facebook recognizes other languages – like French, or Russian or Finnish – it starts by looking for the words in its English dictionary. When it doesn’t find them there, it goes on to other carefully edited dictionaries and language tools that it has stored in the background. When it finds a match, Facebook suggests a translation. When the spelling is wrong, nothing matches and Facebook can only guess. Badly. When the spelling is “just like it sounds to me”? Facebook can’t even guess what language it’s supposed to be.

What’s the next step?

Before we all write to Facebook and tell them to recognize Cree (which is a great idea), we need better agreement amongst ourselves! The standard used by the Cree Literacy Network is Arok Wolvengrey’s Cree: Words, which is based on decades of use by pioneers like the late Freda Ahenakew and Ida McLeod, who devoted their lives to exactly this cause. Their foundation is being used right now to help develop better computer tools for Cree, that rely on standard spelling to work!

So back to this downloadable gift:

To help Facebook learn to recognize Cree, spelling consistently is step one. How to Spell it in Cree is a reference tool designed to help fluent speakers (and for those who wish they were) write Cree in a way that even Facebook might eventually understand. Of course there’s some work involved in reading it and using the rules. But considering the value of Cree language migration to the internet?


*ocêhtowi-kîsikâw, New Year’s Day; lit., ‘kissing day’

**kakwâtaki-miywâsin! lit., ‘It is very good’ In English, one might say, “Priceless”.



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In Memorium, Allen Sapp


Allen Sapp. From the collection of Dr David MacKinnon.

I was privileged last summer to visit the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford, and see some of the work in person that I previously only knew through books. I also got to meet lawyer, writer and activist Michelle Good (who spoke at the Cree Healing Workshop). Following are Michelle’s personal reflections on the passing of Allen Sapp, whom I also hope to honour by passing on her invitation to reflect on the significance and beauty of his contributions in documenting the Plains Cree way of life in the 20th century.

I heard the news this morning that Allen Sapp has passed on. I ask everyone to look at these images of his paintings and honor him in your hearts and prayers for the great legacy he created and has left for the world to experience. In his art he told the story of our Red Pheasant people; of a time in history, of a way of life. He has created hundreds, maybe even thousands of masterpieces and yet did not have a single art lesson in his life. His career started when he would sell his charcoal drawings for piddling amounts on the streets of North Battleford, He was fortunate that a benefactor, Dr. Gonor came into his life and encouraged and supported him with art supplies and praise. Allen soon became known as the Canadian Van Gogh with his pieces selling all over the world for thousands of dollars. Still he remained a simple man with a simple wish to illuminate our story; our reality through his spectacular art. All he needed was a new hat and a new pair of cowboy boots and he was satisfied. I saw him not long ago when I was visiting my auntie and thanked him for his great gift to the world. I am not sure he understood me, being quite deaf. My personal world has been graced with his art and his work inspires my own. May your journey across the Milky Way to the green grass world be wondrous as you leave behind the burdens of this life and you live in the fullness of spirit.

Michelle’s images:

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The website of the Allen Sapp Gallery can be found at http://www.allensapp.com/

CBC’s tribute to his life: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/grandfather-of-saskatchewan-art-allen-sapp-dies-at-87-1.3383937

From Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix: http://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/remembering-saskatchewan-artist-allen-sapp

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Amiskwaciy History Series: Shared History is Reconciliation

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 2.52.44 PM

Because Cree Literacy is so much more than reading and writing words, I was delighted to discover this new series of videos via YouTube from amiskwaciy-wâskahikan / ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᕀ ᐋᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Edmonton, Alberta, lit., Beaver Hills House) thanks to Simon Gowen on the Facebook Cree Phrase/Word of the Day group. The link below plays the first video in the series, which will lead you to others in the weries, including Reuben Quinn’s two-part history of Cree language that includes his star-chart teaching of the syllabic writing system. Congratulations to those involved: Here’s hoping there are lots more videos to follow!


You can even click the “subscribe” button (as I have) to be notified of new posts.

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Christmas wishes from Neal McLeod*


Swedish lingonberries for Santa

(*Whom I’ve heard Santa sometimes calls âpihtaw-Abba in honour of his Cree-Swedish heritage.)

tânisi santî kônat. mitonê kipah-pitikosin. ê-mah-mikoskâtêyihtamihit. kîspin ayiwak ê-pitosipayan, kisôkâwâspinên. minisa piko astêwa nicâhyihk. mahti mîciso ôma. pêyahtik santî kônat, pêyahtik.

dear santa claus. you have become very chubby. i am really worried about you. if you get any more chubby, you will get diabetes. there are only berries downstairs. please eat them. be careful what you eat santa claus, be careful.

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Christmas Greetings 2015 – From Solomon Ratt and the Cree Literacy Network!


Complete with audio!

It was an honour to receive this greeting from Solomon Ratt (who is always much more prepared than I am!) and to pass it on to everyone in our Cree Literacy Network. The artwork is Sol’s own pastel rendering of the church in his home community of Stanley Mission.

Keep spreading the Cree words! Visit these links for Christmas greetings to share:

And don’t forget to sing along with favourite carols:


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New Pocket Phrasebook for Oji-Cree, just in time for Christmas

'Pocket Oji-Cree' is a book to help anyone learn his traditional language, but he especially hopes it will encourage youth, said broadcaster and translator Jerry Sawanas. (Amy Hadley )

‘Pocket Oji-Cree’ is a book to help anyone learn his traditional language, but he especially hopes it will encourage youth, said broadcaster and translator Jerry Sawanas. (Amy Hadley )

Congratulations to Pat Ningewance Nadeau for launching the fourth (fourth!) pocket phrasebook in her series from Mazinaate Press, and congratulations to Jerry Sawanas of Sandy Lake, Ontario for his role in bringing the concept to Oji-Cree. Listening to Jerry in the CBC interview is just magic. To paraphrase: it is through knowing the language that one comes to know the creator’s gifts.

The Swampy Cree edition by Ken Paupanekis is still available from McNally Robinson or from Mazinaate Books (Email: books@patningewance.ca).

I can’t wait to see the Plains Cree edition that is currently in the works, perhaps for release in 2016.


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