Language and Culture Links

Plains Cree (nêhiyawêwin) links:

There are just SO MANY resources out there now, that I have to reorganise this page a bit better so it does not simply overwhelm. I hope the sub-pages I’ve set up help guide you towards the resources you’re looking for.

In terms of Things You Need On Your Shelf, I highly recommend you have at least these books:

Online resources

– also available as a free app for all your mobile devices, so get it!

– Yay, it’s back up after a long hiatus!  Word and phrases with audio, in various languages spoken in Saskatchewan.  The link above is to Plains Cree. Great chance to hear the pronunciation of simple words.

– Yay, a new resource!  There are 134 videos modelling phrases in Plains Cree (scroll to bottom of page).  Hearing the language is so, so vital.  This particular dialect uses the ‘ch’ sound in place of the ‘ts’ sound that I am used to for the Cree letter ‘c’, but it is a small difference and the words are just as understandable.

– the video resources above are part of a wider First Language Speaking Project. The site also has Elder recordings, Elder transcripts, flashcards, oral quizzes, Cree phrase downloadable audio, links to language books and dictionaries and so on.  It is an enormous collection of Cree (3 dialects included).  The site is volunteer run and as such is underfunded, but was made by individuals who care about keeping their language alive through speaking.

– This site can look a little ‘busy’ sometimes, but it is full of great resources.  Here is an order form for Plains Cree resources.  Here are language instructional resources available in ‘th’ Woods Cree, ‘y’ Plains Cree, and Dene.  I would love to hear from anyone who has actually purchased one of these sets.  There are A LOT of print resources you can get from this site, so I highly recommend taking a look-see.

In addition, there are a number of fantastic online resources.  Check out their interactive learning areas as well as the multimedia pages.  Here are interactive vocabulary exercises in Plains Cree. I poke around this website a lot and have not yet exhausted all the materials they continue to develop!

And because I missed this before, here are complete, amazing language units you can download for free!  I include only these two here because grades 1-3 are available so far only in the TH dialect and in Dene.

Nursery level

Kindergarten level

– Click on Stories to read the accounts of various Elders both in English and in Cree.  The stories are for advanced learners, but the English translations provide important access to the cultural messages being shared.

– This demo flash resource from the Bear Hills Cree is a good start.  Only the demo version is accessible right now.  I’m not sure what’s happening with this, because as you’ll see in the next link, the project seems to have been moved to a different platform.

– Miyo Education also has links to many printable Cree resources in PDF format.  I’ve just recently discovered this resource and I’m loving it!  Note that a lot of newer language development in Alberta is being done in syllabics rather than in the RSO.  Here is an order form for many, many Cree resources. Here is a link to the printable resources.

– there are all sorts of ‘sets’ of vocabulary modeled for you in youtube form. Awesome!

– (This is currently down, but I’m hoping it’ll be back up so I’m keeping this link) This resource focuses entirely on Cree kinship terms and provides a comprehensive explanation of grammatical structures used as well as a decent description of basic kinship roles.  There is some audio provided.  This resource is more suited to older learners.  At the end, there is even a test :D

– Nisto was down for a while too.  The link above will take you to the main page with more than language resources.  This link will take you directly to the language lessons which were developed in 1972.  The way things are spelled in these lessons reflects the way fluent speakers tend to pronounce the words, with many sounds ‘dropped’ in rapid speech, so it may be confusing to beginners.  Nonetheless, it is a good resources.  As well, the dialect represented is from Manitoba, and it is useful to see the differences in pronunciation and wording.

-I stumbled upon these recently. There are 40 sets of flash cards with vocabulary and translations.  I was excited that there seemed to be audio included, but it is apparently some form of automatic digital reading that definitely does not give you proper pronunciation.  I suggest just forgetting it’s there at all :D

What I LOVE about this is that there is great vocab…such as these sets on the theme of Tim Hortons, KFC and Facebook/internet slang!  Some of this is definitely Creelish, but it’s relevant and funny.  There is a testing function that allows you to see if you can remember the terms you are learning.

– CD for purchase

– This blog inspired me to start my own.  The author is a hardcore Plains Cree addict/linguist (same difference?) and he discusses various interesting aspects of the language.

– this site provides a list of books in Cree and where possible gives you links so that you can order them.  What is great about this site is that they review the books to ensure that they use standard Roman Syllabic Orthography and are in the Plains Cree dialect.

– A wonderful streamed resource!  You can listen to three legends as told by members of the Atahtakoop (Sandy Lake) First Nation. Most of the stories are told in English, but with many Cree words and phrases.

Video interviews in Cree

– no subtitles or text provided, full on Cree.

 

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26 Responses to Language and Culture Links


  1. Arden Ogg says:

    Hey Chelsea! How wonderful to see you’re doing this, and for making me go “miywâsin” at your header image. I like your contributions to the Cree word of the day, too. I’m glad to make another connection.

    Just wondering — have you met Manon Tremblay at Concordia? She runs the Aboriginal Students Centre, but she’s a Cree speaker (and linguist) from Muskeg Lake, Saskatchewan, and a relation by marriage to the late Freda Ahenakew. If you and she haven’t met, I’d be thrilled to do an email introduction.

    Very best,

    …Arden

    • By the way, aaages after you first posted this, I have indeed met Manon in person when we both presented on a panel on Indigenous languages here in Montreal. She is now the head of the Cree Language Commission, and had some amazing things to say about the way in which Statistics Canada listing Cree as a ‘strong’ language created a sense of over-confidence that we are seeing the results of now as the language faces serious decline.

  2. Emo says:

    There’s a terrible irony to the archive of Louis Bird’s recordings (http://www.ourvoices.ca, linked to above) … and I comment because I’m the one who sent you that link in the first place (and it because it takes some time to dig through the files on that site… only one of which is currently in Cree! The website vaguely states that Cree material will be added (gradually?) as their budget allows… and the one e-mail I sent them “bounced” with an error message that suggests to me their office isn’t exactly running at full steam… but I digress..).

    Currently, the website provides much more of the storyteller’s critique of government policy (and missionary policy, etc.) than it does provide language resources. The saddening irony here is that the guy providing the audio recordings (Louis Bird) is himself (1) archly critical of the project as an endgame to cultural genocide, and (2) is archly critical of the role of technology and government subvention of precisely the kind that has produced the website. The guy actually has a pretty incisive view of charity as culturally destructive –and, as he puts it, of infrastructure and technology as a “new religion” that is finally destroying Cree culture (in a way that the waves of missionaries, etc., failed to do).

    Here’s a sample in his own words (and, I note, the transcription seems to contain a few errors…).

    QUOTE
    Where I speak from today is a is a little community which has been in 1986, the summer of 1986 and it has been designed and funded by the taxpayers money and designed by the top engineers of the world that it will be established as the most modern village. We the most isolated people, we the most innocent who never saw what the other culture can do the peace of mind and dignity of a person we have been chosen, we’ve been tricked us again, we have been brainwashed again. This time it’s not by fur traders, this time it’s by a top engineers of the world to give us the last blessing of the modern progress of the high technology.
    It is not a religion this time, its a modern technology which has brainwashed us by
    the European experts. According to my understanding we are a total alienated First Nation Citizen. We have no way to return, our young children that are born today will never again experience the true meaning of the First Nation and never will they feel or experience the true meaning of Self-Sufficiency on the land. They will never understand, they will [never] experience what it terms living in harmony with nature by the Ancestors.
    My sympathy lies to those yet to be born, our Grandchildren’s who run around outside are five years old, and their children will not see what Self-Sufficiency of the First Nations. If my stories dies with me they will not hear it as I have heard it, and this is what I want to explain. Being exploited our First, our Forefathers being exploited by the European fur trade, and later years with the Christianity they lost their land, and today is the final exploitation has occurred in Winisk people, the relocation and establishment of the most highest standard of community in North America, it seem, because all its infrastructure, there’s no where on earth that a First Nation people can live so highly.
    With all the taxpayers money that has been poured into this small community of 100 and 200 people, it’s very amazing. To my understanding it was the part of Indian Affairs who have choose the Winisk band to experiment them, to make his final push to civilize our people, our coastal region people, and it works today.
    [...] I have said the results of the final exploitation of our people, our innocent Cree people who were isolated who were the last people to exercise and practice our Native culture, and I do believe this is a final, I don’t think there will be any other exploitation that will finish off our
    people. And now we have to phase out as a First Nation people, or First Nation culture practice.

    CLOSE QUOTE
    SOURCE: http://www.ourvoices.ca/filestore/pdf/0/0/4/7/0047.pdf (pages 9-11)

  3. Emo says:

    A 1977 film from the N.F.B., Cree Way deals specifically with language transmission… it is listed online, but the film itself isn’t online (yet) and I’ve never seen the thing myself (NFB would probably send you a copy if you asked). Descr: John Murdoch, principal of the Indian Affairs school at Rupert House, James Bay, and his wife, Gerti, have initiated a curriculum development project using local people and resources. The teaching materials are drawn from Cree folklore, are mainly in Cree, and make use of old photographs, artifacts and books that are written and printed in the community…” (It’s circa half an hour long.)
    Source: http://www.onf-nfb.gc.ca/eng/collection/film/?id=12536
    The one Cree-related film that the NFB currently does have online (currently) is Cree Hunters of Mistassini, 1974, circa one hour in length, with a simple documentary approach to life on a hunting camp (and, probably, a great deal of nostalgia value for anyone circa ten years older than myself, too).
    http://www.nfb.ca/film/cree_hunters
    Both in print and in audio-visual materials, I’m finding much more by-and-for the James Bay Cree than the Plains Cree.

    • The James Bay Cree of northern Quebec (Eeyou Istchee) are ten communities (if you count Washaw Sibi). They have been politically united since the 70s when they began fighting against the huge dam that Quebec was going to impose on them without the hint of consultation. Because of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), the James Bay Cree have a centralised Cree School Board (along with many other centralised and Cree run entities) which are better equipped and funded to produced Cree language materials than many other Cree communities in Canada. As well, Cree language use and retention is very high in Eeyou Istchee, with most James Bay Cree being fluent in their language. The entire Annual Assembly takes place in Cree, and most meetings are monolingual settings as well.

      Rupert’s House is the old name for Waskaganish (Little House). The materials you list are indeed quite old. However there are many Cree language publications (print and audio) available through the Cree School Board, the Cree Board of Health and so on. The dialect is about as far away from Plains Cree as you can get, however and not much use to those pursuing Plains Cree. Unfortunately.

  4. Emo says:

    I’m aware of the political history alluded to (although, I note, C.B.C. radio/propaganda still announces plans for large-scale power plants on James Bay in the future tense… so I assume that some part of that history will repeat itself) and I agree that the Plains Cree probably have a number of things they could learn from the James Bay Cree and the Swampy Cree (i.e., in terms of recent historical experience). If given half a chance, it could be that the James Bay and Swampy Cree would find something significant in contrasting the experience of the Plains Cree, too. However, nobody is going to learn anything without a lot of long bus trips. I’ve asked just a few people so far to see if there’s any interest (or if I can stir up any interest) in making a field trip (just to compare the size of the mosquitoes, etc., no grand ambitions on a first trip). The other big however that’s worth noting is sheer demographics: the less-than-infallible Wikipedia puts the number of James Bay Cree at 16,357. In Saskatchewan, there are single reservations with populations around 8,000 … but then, part of the problem is that the population tends to be spread around a large area. (Lac La Ronge plus Ballantyne F.N. totals a land mass comparable to some European nations…) Further West, I have seen some of the in-classroom materials produced in Hobbema, Alberta, where there’s a relatively dense Cree population at the crossroads of several reservations. I don’t know if I could talk anyone at F.N.U. into mounting an expedition to Hobbema (perhaps less exciting than James Bay, even if easier to reach). And, speaking of Hobbema, your language and culture list currently omits Rezofficial, Hellnback, and War Party.

    • I’ve been limiting my list to artists who send out a positive message. War Party does attempt to do that from time to time, but I am not a fan of the gangster glorification that goes on otherwise. Particularly given the gang violence and loss of such young lives in Samson Cree First Nation which is one of the four communities that make up Hobbema. I think Conway K says it best, “All I hear is talk about stuff that’s illegal…try saying something that will uplift your people!”

      To be honest, I’m not sure what the Plains Cree could learn from the eastern James Bay Cree and vice versa. The situations are very different. The James Bay Hydroelectric project went ahead and yes is still being expanded, but the Eeyou were successful in putting enough pressure to bear on Quebec that they managed to see some of the money from that development as well as expanding the exercise of their rights. The Eeyou communities are northern and isolated, although there has been some recent encroachment on the inland communities. Compare this to the Plains where encroachment has been intense and ongoing for at least half a century.

  5. Emo says:

    A series of (freely available) e-texts on things Cree, ranging from academic treatises to first-person narratives written by Christian missionaries living amongst the Cree 150 years ago.
    http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/browse?type=lcsubc&key=Cree%20Indians%20–%20Folklore
    The Cree-specific materials are at the top of the list, with some Haida, Chilcotin and other indigenous-Canadian materials appearing below, apparently not in alphabetical order. Two examples from the list:
    * Grateful Prey: Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), by Robert Brightman (HTML at UC Press)
    * Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear: The Life and Adventures of Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney (1885), by Theresa Delaney and Theresa Gowanlock

  6. Emo says:

    And, five minutes later, I’m following up because there is a “Cree Language Texts” category within one of those archives, namely:
    http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/SearchResults?id=df1116cd44c8efb7&query=%20%20%20Cree%20language%20%20%20%20–%20Texts.&range=subject&bool=exact&subset=all
    Just twelve texts (so far?) but a small library none-the-less…
    As a strange (but perhaps representative) sample, take a glance at the Sermons de Monseigneur Baraga as rendered in Cree syllabics in 1859:
    http://www.canadiana.org/view/63839/18
    Relative to sermons such as this, I can honestly say that Gangster rap is part of a wholesome education. (I’m only half-joking.)

  7. Emo says:

    Government of Saskatchewan department of education put together its own list:
    http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/aboriginal-resource-list
    This is useful, despite obvious drawbacks; it includes non-textbook materials (such as short films) that would otherwise be hard to find out about, and illustrated children’s books (unlikely to be mentioned in academic book catalogues). Although I have seen many in-class materials for Cree (especially those produced by particular band councils) I do not think I have seen the “K.I.M. Language Starter Kit” for Cree; it is probably important for people more advanced in the language (like yourself) to see and review resources such as this. It is possible that I saw this set of books at the F.N.U. library already, and didn’t take any interest in it for some obvious reason, but it reportedly covers “kindergarden through grade 12″, etc.
    Cf. http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/curr_inst/iru/bibs/update03/updates/aboriginal_languages.html

  8. Emo says:

    Have you tried clicking through the multimedia verb tables put together by Blue Quills?
    http://www.csj.ualberta.ca/creeeditor/verb.php?id=196
    It is not easy to use, but you can click through to get audio recordings both of particular words, and those words used in context, e.g.,
    http://www.csj.ualberta.ca/creeeditor/verb.php?id=320
    Click on the little audio icon, then click on either of the two boxes that specify the origin of the speaker, etc., then press play.

  9. Emo says:

    A major new resource for beginners (I can’t believe they’re giving it away for free):
    http://creeliteracy.wordpress.com/ken-paupanekis-audio-files-for-introductory-cree/
    The dialogues are “simple”, but delivered in a relaxed and natural accent; you can tell that the intended audience would be adults students with no prior speaking ability. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of Ken’s textbook, and more of his work.

  10. I’d love to get comments on this blog post here – http://openconcept.ca/blog/mgifford/whats-more-canadian-cree

    I didn’t find anything about the use of webfonts in the research I did earlier this week.

  11. Just a note that I am starting a Skype Cree language nest for those wishing to speak Cree. My sole focus is oral fluency – I have Cree speaking family and friends that I wish to communicate with – few and (no Elders) who read or write Cree. The group is not limited by dialect although western dialects would be most mutually understandable as most will be Saskatchewan/Manitoba/Alberta dialects of Cree. I am seeking brand new speakers who wish to converse in a respectful and safe environment free of over-correction (unsolicited correction of pronounciation) who are looking for a supportive forum to speak interactively while building skill through dialogues and simple conversations. Speaking ability in all languages develops by focusing on actual communication with others. Developing skill in pronounciation is a longer term goal that takes lots and lots of practice over time! We will start with very basic questions and answers to build into longer dialogues over time – please email me your Skype name if you are interested in joining! (chimiskwew@hotmail.com)

  12. Chimalpahin says:

    Cool beans, thanks for the links, tlazohcamati.

    I wanted to ask, what is your opinion and do you use the Cree Syllabics or just roman script?

    • I use the RSO because that is what I am most familiar with, but I honestly like the syllabics better and would prefer to use that system. I think it’s important to know them both however, since different communities will use RSO/syllabics.

  13. art napoleon says:

    thanks so much for this helpful one stop compilation. i will be doing a comprehensive one of just the Y dialect resources soon & can forward you the info! kinanaskomitin..

    • That would be awesome, thank you! I keep meaning to do some more scouring to find resources, but I never seen to have the time. In a way that’s heartening, because it means there are a lot of resources out there to find. I’ve been thinking of putting links together to publications in Cree as well, for language learners, health updates published by Sask gov’t agencies etc. There’s so little for us to read in Cree that I find myself getting excited over a Canada Food Guide in nehiyawewin hahahahaha…

  14. fem_progress says:

    Thank you for this. This info you and the other persons are posting here is extremely useful to me especially since they are closing the First Nations Portal in a few days. I guess that, since I am from Québec (and francophone), it would make sense to learn the Northern Québec dialect, as best I can. I want to try and see what I can do to learn a bit of Cree.

  15. Pingback: Idle No More: some ideas for Cree language revitalisation | Cree Literacy Network

  16. Monique says:

    Love your site! I think this might be the family unit link that you mention (it must have changed):

    http://www.scs.sk.ca/cyber/elem/learningcommunity/socialsciences/cree/curr_content/creeunit/

  17. chuck martin says:

    This is an amazing site. I want to learn more about my heritage. I grew up in white culture. I am 1/4 Cree, but could be iroquois as I am from the Michel band near St Albert. I am trying to find information about providing respectful care for plains Cree, especially the elderly suffering various forms of dementia. Specifically, are there dressing and grooming rituals or protocols I should be aware of? Are there special foods that can be provided for them so that they may retain their heritage? Are there any religious beliefs/practices around caring for the elderly, or treating illness? Finally, as the subject is about those entering final stages of life, how can I show respect for them in death, especially the family of the deceased? Looking at this request, I realize that I may come across as insensitive. I mean no disrespect in any way. I only want to do the best for those who come under my care. I appreciate any information that you can provide, as locating it anywhere is impossible online or in any library sources.

    • tânisi! If you are from the Michel Band, then you definitely have some Mohawk ancestors mixed in with Cree and probably Stoney. In terms of culture and protocol, that is not something I’m willing (and in many cases even able) to discuss online. Talking to caregivers in Cree communities is a good place to start for answers to these questions.

  18. Darren Reilly says:

    Hi. I work as a paramedic with a large population from northern Alberta area that speak Cree. Can you email me as I would like to create a small list of simple terms that will help me treat my patients. By simple terms I mean; are you having chest pain, where, are you in pain…etc. If you are able to help out that would help me help my patient to receive the best care.Thanks,Darren

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