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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A Christmas Residential School Memory from Solomon Ratt

PA Residential School

An aerial view looking east over the Prince Albert Residential School grounds in March of 1965. The grounds are now part of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation urban reserve, just east of Victoria Hospital. The large building at centre is now the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Gymnasium. Prince Albert Historical Society archives


Thanks to Solomon for sharing this bittersweet memory to coincide with the release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – and in time for Christmas.

(For more of Sol’s residential school stories, click on “Read Along with Solomon” above, or type his name into the search box on the right.)

ispî kâ-kî-awâsiwiyân nîsta nikî-kwâsihikawin ohpimî nîkihk ohci ta-nitawi-ayamihcikiyân, kistapinânihk nikî-nitawi-ayamihcikân, mihcîtwâw mâna nikî-kaskîthihtîn nîkih. ikwa ôma, î-pî-makosî-kîsikâk niwî-âtotîn tânisi mâna kâ-kî-itâkamikahk ispî kâ-makosî-kîsikâk ikota kiskinwahamâtowikamikohk.

ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᐚᓯᐏᔮᐣ ᓃᐢᑕ ᓂᑮ ᒁᓯᐦᐃᑲᐏᐣ ᐅᐦᐱᒦ ᓃᑭᐦᐠ ᐅᐦᒋ ᑕ ᓂᑕᐏ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᒋᑭᔮᐣ, ᑭᐢᑕᐱᓈᓂᕽ ᓂᑮ ᓂᑕᐏ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᒋᑳᐣ, ᒥᐦᒌᑤᐤ ᒫᓇ ᓂᑮ ᑲᐢᑮᖨᐦᑏᐣ ᓃᑭᐦ᙮ ᐃᑿ ᐆᒪ, ᐄ ᐲ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑳk ᓂᐑ ᐋᑐᑏᐣ ᑖᓂᓯ ᒫᓇ ᑳ ᑮ ᐃᑖᑲᒥᑲᐦk ᐃsᐲ ᑳ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ ᐃᑯᑕ ᑭᐢᑭᓌᐦᐊᒫᑐᐏᑲᒥᑯᕽ᙮

When I was a child I too got taken away to go to school away from my home, I went to Prince Albert (Prince Albert Indian Students Residential School.) A lot of times I was lonesome for home. Now that Christmas is coming I want to tell a story about what went on during Christmas at that school.

âtiht mâna awâsisak kî-pî-nâtitisahokowak onîkihikowâwa ta-kîwîcik, ta-nitawi-wîci-makosî-kîsikanimâcik owâhkômâkaniwâwa. namwâc mâna nîthanân. nîkân nistîs ikwa nimisak ikwa nisîmisak (mwîstas wîthawâw kâ-kî-pî-ayamihcikîcik) nikî-kisâcânân, osâm î-kî-mihcîtiyâhk, osâm kî-mistakisiw pôsotâpânâsk, namwâc kî-ispathihikowak ninîkihikwak ta-tipahahkwâw ta-kîwîyâhk nîstanân. ikwâni ikota kiskinwahamâtowikamikohk nikî-makosî-kîsikanisinân.

ᐋᑎᐦᐟ ᒫᓇ ᐊᐋᐧᓯᓴᐠ ᑮ ᐲ ᓈᑎᑎᓴᐦᐅᑯᐊᐧᐠ ᐅᓃᑭᐦᐃᑯᐋᐧᐊᐧ ᑕ ᑮᐄᐧᒋᐠ, ᑕ ᓂᑕᐃᐧ ᐄᐧᒋ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᒫᒋᐠ ᐅᐋᐧᐦᑰᒫᑲᓂᐋᐧᐊᐧ᙮ ᓇᒫᐧᐨ ᒫᓇ ᓃᐟᐦᐊᓈᐣ᙮ ᓃᑳᐣ ᓂᐢᑏᐢ ᐃᑲᐧ ᓂᒥᓴᐠ ᐃᑲᐧ ᓂᓰᒥᓴᐠ (ᒦᐧᐢᑕᐢ ᐄᐧᐟᐦᐊᐋᐧᐤ ᑳ ᑮ ᐲ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᒋᑮᒋᐠ) ᓂᑮ ᑭᓵᒑᓈᐣ, ᐅᓵᒼ ᐄ ᑮ ᒥᐦᒌᑎᔮᐦᐠ, ᐅᓵᒼ ᑮ ᒥᐢᑕᑭᓯᐤ ᐴᓱᑖᐹᓈᐢᐠ, ᓇᒫᐧᐨ ᑮ ᐃᐢᐸᐟᐦᐃᐦᐃᑯᐊᐧᐠ ᓂᓃᑭᐦᐃᑲᐧᐠ ᑕ ᑎᐸᐦᐊᐦᑳᐧᐤ ᑕ ᑮᐄᐧᔮᕁ ᓃᐢᑕᓈᐣ᙮ ᐃᑳᐧᓂ ᐃᑯᑕ ᑭᐢᑭᓇᐧᐦᐊᒫᑐᐃᐧᑲᒥᑯᕁ ᓂᑮ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑲᓂᓯᓈᐣ᙮

Some children’s parents were able to send for their children to go home to spend Christmas with their relatives. Not us. First my older brother, and my older sisters and later my younger siblings (when they too came to school), we stayed behind because there were too many of us, the bus was too expensive, it was not possible for my parents to be able to afford the bus for all of us to go home too. So there we stayed to spend Christmas.

kî-nâh-nitomâwak mâna aniki awâsisak kâ-kî-pî-nâtitisahohcik. âta mâna nikî-nitohtîn nânitaw-isi nîstanân nitomikawiyâhki, mâka nama-wihkâc ikosi kî-ispathin. piyakwâw mâka, î-pôni-âpihtâ-kîsikâk, nipihtîn nimis î-matwî-nitomiht.

ᑮ ᓈᐦ ᓂᑐᒫᐊᐧᐠ ᒫᓇ ᐊᓂᑭ ᐊᐋᐧᓯᓴᐠ ᑳ ᑮ ᐲ ᓈᑎᑎᓴᐦᐅᐦᒋᐠ᙮ ᐋᑕ ᒫᓇ ᓂᑮ ᓂᑐᐦᑏᐣ ᓈᓂᑕᐤ ᐃᓯ ᓃᐢᑕᓈᐣ ᓂᑐᒥᑲᐃᐧᔮᐦᑭ, ᒫᑲ ᓇᒪ ᐃᐧᐦᑳᐨ ᐃᑯᓯ ᑮ ᐃᐢᐸᐟᐦᐃᐣ᙮ ᐱᔭᑳᐧᐤ ᒫᑲ, ᐄ ᐴᓂ ᐋᐱᐦᑖ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ, ᓂᐱᐦᑏᐣ ᓂᒥᐢ ᐄ ᒪᑏᐧ ᓂᑐᒥᐦᐟ᙮

The children who were sent for would be called (to the office). Although I listened hard, always hoping to hear we too being called, but that was never the case. Once, however, I heard my older sister being called.

kwayask nikî-kisowâsin, ikwa pîthisk nikî-mâton, wîtha poko nimis î-pî-nâtitisahoht, mistahi nikî-pakwâtîn.

ᑲᐧᔭᐢᐠ ᓂᑮ ᑭᓱᐋᐧᓯᐣ, ᐃᑲᐧ ᐲᐟᐦᐃᐢᐠ ᓂᑮ ᒫᑐᐣ, ᐄᐧᐟᐦᐊ ᐳᑯ ᓂᒥᐢ ᐄ ᐲ ᓈᑎᑎᓴᐦᐅᐦᐟ, ᒥᐢᑕᐦᐃ ᓂᑮ ᐸᑳᐧᑏᐣ᙮

I was so angry, and eventually I cried, only my older sister gets to go home, I hated that so much.

ispî kâ-nitawi-otâkwani-mîcisoyâhk, awîna mâka kâ-wâpamak? nimis! tâpokâni ninâcipahâw. nikakwîcimâw tânihki îkâ kâ-kî-kîwît. nikî-wihtamâk tîpithahk î-kî-nitomiht ta-nitawi-wâciyîmât owîcîwâkana onîkihikothiwa.

ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᓂᑕᐃᐧ ᐅᑖᑲᐧᓂ ᒦᒋᓱᔮᐦᐠ, ᐊᐄᐧᓇ ᒫᑲ ᑳ ᐋᐧᐸᒪᐠ? ᓂᒥᐢ! ᑖᐳᑳᓂ ᓂᓈᒋᐸᐦᐋᐤ᙮ ᓂᑲᑮᐧᒋᒫᐤ ᑖᓂᐦᑭ ᐄᑳ ᑳ ᑮ ᑮᐄᐧᐟ᙮ ᓂᑮ ᐃᐧᐦᑕᒫᐠ ᑏᐱᐟᐦᐊᕁ ᐄ ᑮ ᓂᑐᒥᐦᐟ ᑕ ᓂᑕᐃᐧ ᐋᐧᒋᔩᒫᐟ ᐅᐄᐧᒌᐋᐧᑲᓇ ᐅᓃᑭᐦᐃᑯᐟᐦᐃᐊᐧ᙮

When it was time to go for supper, who did I see? My older sister. I ran to her right away. I asked her why she hadn’t gone home. She told me that she was called only to go shake hands with her friends parents.

ikwâni osâm-poko kahkithaw awâsisak kî-kîwîwak, âtiht poko nîthanân nikisâcânân. ispî kâ-kihci-tipiskâk, î-mwayî-makosî-kîsikâk, nikî-pôsinân pôsotâpânâskohk î-nitawi-kah-kanawâpahtamâhk makosî-kîsikani-wâsaskocînikanisa ôtînâhk. nikî-môcikinîn. ikwa kâ-takosiniyâhk kiskinwahamâtowikamikohk nikî-akotânânak nitasikaninânak.

ᐃᑳᐧᓂ ᐅᓵᒼ ᐳᑯ ᑲᐦᑭᐟᐦᐊᐤ ᐊᐋᐧᓯᓴᐠ ᑮ ᑮᐄᐧᐊᐧᐠ, ᐋᑎᐦᐟ ᐳᑯ ᓃᐟᐦᐊᓈᐣ ᓂᑭᓵᒑᓈᐣ᙮ ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᑭᐦᒋ ᑎᐱᐢᑳᐠ, ᐄ ᒪᐧᔩ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ, ᓂᑮ ᐴᓯᓈᐣ ᐴᓱᑖᐹᓈᐢᑯᕁ ᐄ ᓂᑕᐃᐧ ᑲᐦ ᑲᓇᐋᐧᐸᐦᑕᒫᕁ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑲᓂ ᐋᐧᓴᐢᑯᒌᓂᑲᓂᓴ ᐆᑏᓈᐦᐠ᙮ ᓂᑮ ᒨᒋᑭᓃᐣ᙮ ᐃᑲᐧ ᑳ ᑕᑯᓯᓂᔮᕁ ᑭᐢᑭᓇᐧᐦᐊᒫᑐᐃᐧᑲᒥᑯᕁ ᓂᑮ ᐊᑯᑖᓈᓇᐠ ᓂᑕᓯᑲᓂᓈᓇᐠ᙮

Now then most of the children had gone home, just a few of us left behind. When it was time of the Great Night (Christmas Eve) before Christmas Day, we went on a bus to view the Christmas lights in town. I loved the sights! When we got back to the school we hung our stockings.

ispî kâ-makosî-kîsikâk, nitasikaninâninâhk nikî-miskînân mîthikowinisa, ikwa sîwicîsak. kapî î-kîkisîpâyâk nikî-mîtawâkânân nitoski-mîtawâkaninâna. ikwa kâ-âpihtâ-kîsikâk nikî-misi-mîcisonân. ispî kâ-pôni-âpihtâ-kîsikâk nikî-mâmawinitonân ta-nah-nikamoyâhk. ikwa kîtahtawî mâna kâ-pî-takosihk wîsahkîcâhk, î-mâh-mîthikoyâhk mîthikowinisa.

ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᒪᑯᓰ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ, ᓂᑕᓯᑲᓂᓈᓂᓈᕁ ᓂᑮ ᒥᐢᑮᓈᐣ ᒦᐟᐦᐃᑯᐃᐧᓂᓴ, ᐃᑲᐧ ᓰᐃᐧᒌᓴᐠ᙮ ᑲᐲ ᐄ ᑮᑭᓰᐹᔮᐠ ᓂᑮ ᒦᑕᐋᐧᑳᓈᐣ ᓂᑐᐢᑭ ᒦᑕᐋᐧᑲᓂᓈᓇ᙮ ᐃᑲᐧ ᑳ ᐋᐱᐦᑖ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ ᓂᑮ ᒥᓯ ᒦᒋᓱᓈᐣ᙮ ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᐴᓂ ᐋᐱᐦᑖ ᑮᓯᑳᐠ ᓂᑮ ᒫᒪᐃᐧᓂᑐᓈᐣ ᑕ ᓇᐦ ᓂᑲᒧᔮᐦᐠ᙮ ᐃᑲᐧ ᑮᑕᐦᑕᐄᐧ ᒫᓇ ᑳ ᐲ ᑕᑯᓯᕁ ᐄᐧᓴᐦᑮᒑᐦᐠ, ᐄ ᒫᐦ ᒦᖨᑯᔮᕁ ᒦᖨᑯᐃᐧᓂᓴ᙮

When it was Christmas Day in our stockings we found toys and candy. All morning we played with our new toys. At noon we had a big meal. In the afternoon we were gathered together and sang songs, and who should arrive but Santa, giving toys to all of us.



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