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CREE GLOSSARY

Mochi yitaw manito o kisikam (Merry Christmas)
Table of Contents & Preface. Index. List of Appendicies Cree Museum Collection OTHER LISTINGS Native Tribes listings Tribal Homepages Tribal History files Cree Museum Collection Tribal Genealogy listings Family Genealogy Listings Heritage Consulting homepage Native Studies directory History Bibliography History directory Historic photos Book Reviews directory Books for sale Collectibles for sale _______________________________________________________________________ | | | | | | | THE WESTERN PLAINS CREE | | | | | | Copyright 2001 | | | | by | | | | J. Fromhold | | | | | | | | GLOSSARY | | | | | |_______________________________________________________________________| INTRODUCTION This is excerpted from a Cree Dictionary currently being worked on by the author. Cree is an Algonkian Language. Cree legendry claims that Cree was the Original INDIAN language in the Americas and that other Indian languages are descended from Cree. Inuit, Athapascan and possibly some Southwestern languages are not included in this grouping (the Inuit and Athapascan being latecomers, and the Hopi claiming not to have been Indian at the time of their arrival). Neither Anthropologists nor Linguists can refute this claim. If we consider Cree as the original Paleo-Algonkian (as Sanskrit is the closest surviving form of Indo-European), then this may well be the case, It is generally conceeded that North and Central American languages (excepting the above noted) are likely of Algonkian origin. Indeed, Cree history specifically, and Northern Algonkian history generally, shows a marked tendency to hive off into newley emergent groups with dialectic variation. Historically, for example, the Cheyenne were known to the Sioux as LESSER CREE, and to the Cree as OUR LANGUAGE/CREE SPEAKERS. Kutenai, on the other hand, shows a distinct likelihood of being an amaglamation of Proto-Cree/Blackfoot and Athabascan. Cree is clearly a language with Indo-European roots. It adheres well to Indo-European gramatical usages, and is certainly more consistent than English in doing so--although this is not always readily apparent in the colloquial versions. Indo-European speakers will find little difficulty in understanding Cree gramatical usage. There are some intriquing similarities to archaic Greek, though this may be simply co-incidental or over-interpretation on my part. Considering that the Algonkians had to have seperated from the parent stock for at least 15,000 years it would be unlikely to find many word similarites. Especially since it shows no truly close affinities to other American Indian languages which are, presumably, more closely related in time. Although apparently an Indo-European language, word and concept association, however, can at times differ considerably from that to which European speakers are accustomed to, though having some affinity with central Asian Indo-Aryan. It is certainly not a Sinitic language. Cree is a highly dialectic language, with some major and countles minor dialectic variations. The most distinctive dialects are the Swampy Cree, Woods Cree and Plains Cree dialects--with occasionally the Moose Cree being classified as a dialect seperate from the Swampy Cree. Many of the local/district dialects, especially in the west, have English or French influence. The three main dialects are the H dialect, the Y dialect and the L dialect. In practice, these three sounds are largely interchangeable in the Cree language. As Cree families historically were highly mobile families and readily relocated from one end of the Cree domain to the other these 'dialects' were really very mixed among each other. The supposed L dialect is a "Woods Cree" dialect from from northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is likely more a figment of someone's imagination. Most of those people lumped into this dialectic group trace their ancestry to the Alberta-Saskatchewan plains within the past 4 generations. The H dialect is a "Swampy Cree" and "Woods Cree" dialect from the east. The Y dialect is the "Plains Cree" dialect. I defy anyone to precisely define where these differentiate. The Cree Language has never been regularized. It is characterized by the use of numerous contractions. Hence speakers speak the language with any number of colloquial variations, usually dependant on the community from which they come. Spoken Cree today--and the written Cree that is based on it--is today a combination of colloquialisms, slang and contractions. This means that spoken Cree today varies considerably not only from communty to community but also from person to person. This colloquialism and slang tends to be reflected in most word lists, glossaries and 'dictionaries' existing to date. It would not be too much to say that each Cree community has it's own dialectic signature--and that the dialect varies by speaker. In addition, there are related languages that overlap with the Cree, including the Montagnais, various Chippewa dialects (especially the Soto dialects, which are called 'Cree' by their users), Cheyenne and Nehiyapwat, a mixed Cree-Nakoda language. In fact, all these slang and colloquial dialects are based on what is/was known as High Cree, sometimes referred to as Old Cree. High Cree was a very precise language (at one time the Cree called themselves "The Precise Speakers") that is characterzied by the lack of contractions and slurring of words. Old Cree is characterized by the clear pronunciation of the complete root words, without dropping vowels and slurring of words. It is the root language on which Cree and likely the Chippewa/Ojibway group, are based. The last known user of High Cree for normal conversation among the West People was Maurice Quinn of Saddle Lake (b. 1907). Though it survives in part in some ceremonies, it is not unlikely that no-one in the last two-- possibly three--generations is fluent in Old Cree as a conversational language. The glossary given here is based on the High Cree--that is, the complete --form of the Cree language and words. It has sometimes been said that Cree is a tonal language. This is not true. Tone, accents and inflections modify words and meanings in much the same way way as in other Indo-Euopean languages. They do not drastically alter the meaning or nature of the word. More significant- ly, the accents and inflections tend to vary by region, group, reserve, community and individual, often due to the differing cultural histories of these particular groups. As such they are dialectic or local colloquial variations. Accenting of syllables also tends to vary by local slang usage and has little apparent consistency. To reduce potential confusion, accents have not been included here. While some may complain, it again has the benefit of simplifying the gramar and make it understandable in all dialectic communities. When words begin with a vowel or silent H, the terminal vowel of the preceeding word is often slurred into the vowel of the following word to the point where the listener may not notice It has been said that the Cree spoken today is "Women's Cree", as taught by Cree wives of traders to their offspring. This is incorrect and is a misinterpretation of the nature of High Cree versus colloquialisms. Historically there have been a number of word lists and 'dictionaries' compiled or passed down. Travelers, traders and government agents have at various times attempted to transcribe Cree into Englisn. Sadly, these word lists tend to vary considerably in the way they were recorded due to various reasons such as local dialectical differences, informants who's mother tongue was not Cree, a poor grasp (in many cases no know- lege of the language whatsoever), lack of phonetic standardization and lack of knowlege of linguistics. As noted, these lists tend to be of local colloquial and slang derivation. This resulted in as many as 30 different versions of the same name being recorded--often lacking any descernible consistency. This tended to create gramatical monstrosities which, more often than not, are indecipherable today. Even today no standard form of written Cree or spelling conventions exist. Hence the use here of the Cree Syllabic format (transcribed into Roman phonemes) that has been in use since its inception by Reverend James Evans at Norway House in the 1830's. It is a universal standard and has been in use by all Church publications since its inception. This standardises and simplifies the written form, perhaps at the cost of some over-simplification. Some will complain that it does not show aspirants, long vowels or soft consenants. Since these tend to be regional or local variants mostly applicable to the colloquial or slang usages, this is not a great concern when considering the Cree language as a whole. Though not a gender-specific language, Cree is a masculine language, meaning that nouns are in unmodified form masculin. Instead of translating PIMOTEW as "to walk" it translates as "he walks". Unless a word applies to a specific female trait it is always translated in the masculin. For example, in Cree God CAN NOT be female. MANITO by definition is implicitly masculin. A female spirit/god MUST be so stated, as MANITO ISKWEW. While not a gender-based language, Cree IS a animate/inanimate based language. Basically, anything that grows or grew while alive, is considered animate and anything that does not grow is inanimate. Words are conjugated on whether they refer to an animate or an inanimate subject. Eg. "He moves" versus "It moves". All animate/growing/living things are "He". There is no distinction between the "He" of a person, animal or plant. This is the basis on which is built the concept that all living creatures are brothers. In Cree a tree is addressed linguistically in the same way as a person. The distinction between animate and inanimate is expressed linguistically by different suffix forms. For all practical purposes, the colloquial and slang usages are so broad that the novice speaker will not notice a distinction. The distinction is more in the cognition than in the usage. Cree verbs generally follow a regular conjugation, though an added complication is the addition of near and far present and future tense. A major difference between Cree (and hence other Indian languages) is that while in Indo-European gramars the noun/pronoun is the subject modified by verbs and articles, in Cree the action/verb is the subject, modified by the noun/pronoun. This occasionally causes some problems in conceptualization by the users of European thinking. As early as the 1660's Fr. Le Jeune noted in frustration that "The language of the Montagnais he considered especially exasperating, because it had so many different ways of saying the same thing. Where one word or expression sufficed for the French, the oppulent Indians had a dozen.....When you know the parts of the French or Spanish and how to combine them you know the languages. Not so with us. Stock your memory with all the words which stand for objects, learn the knot or syntax that joins them, and you are still an ignoramus. For besides the names of individual things, there are an infinite number of words that signify several things together. And these compound relations have no relation, or alliance, or affinity in sound with the simple terms which signify the things apart. It is a tiresome abundance." Because Cree is an aglutinative language based on a few core morphemes, it is characerized by prefixes, infixes and suffixes. Prefixes are usually easily identifiable in that they constitute the main part of the root word. Infixes are often characterized by simple morphemes taken from the root word--especially in the colloquial. Suffixes, when not consisting of a whole word or root word, are often morphemes. These are distinguished on whether it is animate or inanimate. In the colloquial these are often distinguished by modifications based on the preceding vowls or consonants and take the form of dropped or slurred connectives. This is further complicated by the fact that, like all languages, the coloquial Cree differs from the ideal Cree in that it contains a broad range of pronunciation variation, slang, and a high degree or slurring and shortening of words. While this complicates the speaking of the language, it has the advantage for the new speaker that the animate/ inanimate endings are often for all practical purposes indistinguishable. The Cree language is a syllabic language. In regular word construc- tion, words are combinations of morphemes consisting of a consonant followed by a vowel, eg. KI-CHI MA-NI-TO. Unlike in Siouan, these pairs does not usually have a meaning on their own. On occasion, words are ended by a consonant, generally as part of a suffix, such as SI-PI-SIS. Occasional words have a seperate consonant infix, such ask KA-K-WA; however, in the spoken language, this is mostly because of the slurring or contraction of words, rather than a function of the gramatical structure. CREE SYLLABIC ALPHABET a o e i wa wo we wi w pa po pe pi p ta to te ti t ka ko ke ki k cha cho che chi ch ma mo me mi m na no ne ni n sa so se si s ya yo ye yi The Y and H sounds are written with the same syllabic symbol. Broadly speaking, these sounds are interchangeable for the different dialects. The sounds are usually soft aspirants, to the point where listeners frequently miss the sound (as in IKAPAW, which is actually HI KA-PAW). Due to the differences in dialect between the many Cree groups and the extensive use of loan words, there is little standardization in the Cree language. Some attempt has been made here to use some standardized spelling, based on the Plains Cree phonetic system as developed by Mathilda Brerretton at Saddle Lake. Note that this is not a guide to spoken Cree, which varies considerably, as explained above. Rather, it is a guide to gramati- cal structure of Cree words, and is therefore more representative of the High Cree and indicative of the origin of contemporary words. In writing the words there are often double consonants used, such as in w-w, where they form connectives; in the spoken convention, these are usually slurred into one letter. There is a tendency in the Cree community for each community to try to write Cree in it's own exclusive dialect - that is, to write Cree phonetically based on local dialects and slang. This is self-defeating, in that it represents only a limited spoken version of Cree. If we were to write English in the same way it would be virtually impossible to communicate in written English even between western Canadians and Newfoundlanders - let alone with Liverpudlian, Scotts, Jamaican and Punjabi English. The purpose of a written language is to present the written form in a format understandable to the widest audience, not to promote local dialects and slangs. Words given here are not broken down into syllables, as in English dictionaries. Instead, they are broken down to show the root word structure to demonstrate concept groups. Undoubtedly some will disagree with some of the information as it is presented. Good. Undoubtedly there are errors and numerous details that need to be further explored. I challenge a new generation to take the initiative and take this work one step further. It has taken 350 years to get this far since Henry Kelsey's first Cree glossary. This is only the fourth significant work since then (after Mackenzie, Lacombe and Anderson). There is much room for study and improvement. SPELLING CONVENTIONS a = ah i = ee e = ay ch = ch, tc, ts, tch, tz due to dialectic variation the 'ch' and 's' sounds are often interchangeable. k = k, c (hard) o = o, oo s = c (soft) b is always written as 'p', the dominant sound p is pronounced 'b' when followed by a short 'a' h is usually unspoken or aspirated, and varies considerably by dialect (eg. H-dialect) and speaker. Generally not included in this text to minimize confusion, except where it is a definate aspirant or required as a structural part of the word. y like the 'h', is often aspirated. Is sometimes found as a connecting slur between vowels, but this is largely a speech colloquialism and is not included here in such cases. w-w a spelling convention due to basic word structure, usually slurred or contracted into a single sound in speaking Long sounds are not writen in the Cree Syllabics, though they exist in the spoken language. However, these tend to be dialectic in nature and vary from place to place and speaker to speaker. In syllabics it is customary to write them as short sounds, hence the OO sound is written as O, and others accordingly. A word pronounced as MOOSTOOS is written as MOSTOS, the Cree OO actually being an intermediate sound between the O and the OO as in MOOSE.
achak see O Chak aha payew "they are real people" amisk "beaver" Amisk Sipi Beaver River Amisk Wachi Beaver Hills amisk wachi wi iniwak "Beaver Hill People" Amisk Wachi Sakahikan Beaverhills Lake apischis Small/Little asini "Rock/Stone" asini pwat Assiniboine Indian ("Stone Sioux/Enemy") asini pwat-sak Assiniboine Indians (plural) Stone Sioux/Enemies; Nakoda Indian; Also called Assiniboine, Stone and Stoney Indians, supposedly for their use of the 'stone boiling' method of cooking, though this is not correct. David Thompson noted that it was because they resided in mountainous areas. Most Nakoda bands and subdivisions include the name "Stone People" as part of their name. The name 'Stoney' (less commonly 'Stony' is commonly used for the Nakoda found in western Alberta. Erasmus stated in 1859 that "The Stony Indians were so called because of their preference for the mountainous country where they they lived and did most of their hunting." (Erasmus 1976:74) However, by that time the name had asini wachi Rocky Mountains, "Rock/Stone Mountain" asini wachi nehiyawak "Mountain Cree"; the Cree bands of the Asini Wachi Ininiwak asini wachi wi iniwak "Rock/Stone Mountain People"; those bands of the Nehiyaw-Pwat alliance who ranged along the mountains asis (-sis, -is) suffix denoting small; from the High Cree O sis aski- a defineable plot of earth/ground/ territory Aski-s Ini-w the first human, "Earth Man" Askiwin see Askis Iniw Assiniboine see Asini Pwat Athabasca see Ota Paskwa atin Wind awas asis (awas-sis) "child" awasis see awas asis ayachiniwak see ayachi-w ini-w ayachi-w ini-w "strange people, Blackfoot" Ayachi-w Ini-w Sakahikan Lesser Slave Lake, "strange people lake" ayachi-w ini-w ininiwak "strangers/Blackfoot Lake People" Ayachi-w Ini-wak Siksika Blackfoot ayichi-w pichew "they move away elsewhere" ayik "frog" Ayik Sakahikan "Frog Lake" Ayik Sakahikan Ininiwak "Frog Lake People" hi prefix denoting an action hi ka-paw "he stands" -hik suffix denoting a place where an event or action has taken place ikapaw see hi ka-paw ini-w "Person" ini-wak/inini-wak/wi ini-wak "People" see also Wi Iniwak innu see ini-w -isk see Iskwe iskwe asis "girl/young woman" iskwe-w "woman" ka- he/it (is) ka kichi-wew he calls Ka Misa Wikiyap "It Is A Big Lodge"; The Sun Dance Lodge ka-mik "bay/lake/water" kakakew crow/raven kaki "always" kaki chiwew "always talking/bragging" kaki chiwew ininiwak "Bragging People" a division of the Kitopwe Sipi Ininiwak kamik "house" kana-ta "clean/tidy place" kaskawan "fog, foggy" kaskawin "foggy place, place of fog" kayas "long ago/in the past", "long time no see, it's been a long time" kayas nehiya-w "long ago Cree/Indian" ki prefix denoting "you/your" ki-wew North ki-we atin North Wind ki-ya "you" ki kino "our home" kichi/kisi "big/great, good" kichi mani-to "Great Spirit" kichi-na see kichi nape kichi nape "big man, good man" kichi-nas "good people" kinistenog "they who were first" The word is indecipherable and does not exist in either Cree or Chippewa. Possibly from KA NISTAW INEW - "They are Brother-In-Law People" (i.e., 'People With Who We Intermarry') kiski-yew "bobtail/cut off/cut tail" kisi-kaw "day" kito-pwe "He makes a Musical Sound" Kito-pwe Sipi Qu'Appelle River Kito-pwe Sipi Wi Iniwak Qu'Appelle River People ko-kom "Grandmother" (term of respect to any elder female) kutuna-hew Kutenai Indians machi "bad" machi manito "bad spirit" machi-na see machi nape-w machi nape-w "bad man/person" machi-nas "bad people" mamik "downstream" mamik wi iniwak "downstream people", those people livine east of the Saskatchewan river forks/South Saskatchewan River manito "spirit" manito-kan "pretend spirit" - a spirit effigy traditionally erected in a secluded spot to serve as an altar for offerings and prayers. maski "bad" maski-kan Swampy; "He is of the swampy place" maski-ki "swamp" maski-ki wi iniwak Swampy Cree, "swampy people" masko-wa "bear, strong" masko-tew "prairie" masko-tew ininiwak Prairie Indians, Prairie Nehiyaw-Pwat, "prairie people"; he proper Cree term for the Plains Cree and all bands of the Nehiyapwat Alliance who roamed the prairies and plains masko-tew nehiyaw-wak "Prairie Cree"; The Prairie Cree bands of the Maskotew Wininiwak maskwa see masko-wa Maskwa Wachi-is Bear Hills maskwa wachi-is ininiwak "bear hills people; Hobbema Reservation michi/misa/misi "big/large" michi nipi wi iniwak Churchill River Cree, "big water people" Michi Nipi Sipi Churchill River, "big water stream" mikisiw eagle mista-pew see mistahi nape-w mistahi "big/great" mistahi asini "big stone" mistahi maskwa "big bear" mistahi nape-w "big man/giant" mistassini see mistahi asini mo-sam "Grandfather" (term of respect for any elder male) mostos "bull", buffalo, cattle Mostos Sakahikan Buffalo Lake mostos sakahikan wi iniwak "buffalo lake people"; those bands of the Nehiyapwat Alliance who hunter around Buffalo Lake moswa "moose" naka wi iniwak "mixed people"; Chippewa/Soto na-mik "downstream" na-mik wi iniwak "downstream people"; those bands living east of the South Saskatchewan River nape-w "man" nape asis "young man" nehiya-w "Cree" (singular), "Indian" nehiya-w pwat Cree-Assiniboine Nehiya-w Pwat Confederacy The inter-related allied bands and tribes of the Chippewa/Soto, Cree, Nakoda and affiliated neighboring bands (Chippewyan, Crow, Shuswap, Tza Tinne), and the affiliated tribes of the Colville, Flathead, Kutenai and Shuswap. nehiya-wak Cree (plural), "all of us", "everybody" nehiya-wan "speaking Cree" nehiyapwat see nehiya-w pwat ni prefix denoting "me/mine" ni-ya "I" ni is-chas "my friend" ni is-taw "my brother-in-law/potential brother- in-law" ni tanis "my daughter" nipi "water" nista first o prefix denoting primacy or a proper name o chak star, spirit o kichi-taw Warrior Society, "main big thing" okima-w "Influential Person"; traditional chief; nowdays also used as Chief from High Cree O Kichi-maw okima-kan "Pretend Chief/Government Chief/ Reservation Chief" opa-hew "they fly away" ota "over there" ota paskwa Athabasca; "there are plains/ grasslands over there" ota paskwa ininiwak Athabasca River Indians, "plains/ grasslands over there people" pakisimo-tak "to the west, western, westerly" paskwa "plains" paskwa wi iniwak "plains people" paskwa nehiya-w-pwat Plains Cree/Nakoda & affiliated peoples paskwa nehiya-wak Plains Cree; The Cree bands of the Paskwa Wininiwak paskwa mostos "plains bull", "buffalo" pesew "cougar, mountain lion" pi prefix denoting action Pi Matisew Monew Chikan "Maker of New Life"; Rainbow; used ONLY!! when speaking in the conext of the compact between Kichi Manito and man after the Great Flood. pi-mot-tew "he walks", "leg" pi-to-new "arm" Pi-ye-sis bird Pi-ye-si-wak Chak Thunderbird pwat Sioux, "enemy"; also used as a contraction for Asini Pwat (Nakoda) Pwat-sak Nakoda/Sioux plural -sak, -wak a suffix indicating plural saka "bushland/woodland" saka wi iniwak "woods people"; those bands of the Nehiyaw-Pwat Confederation who resided primarily in the woodlands. saka nehiyawak "woods Cree" saka pwat-sak "woods Nakoda" sakahikan "lake" saki ta-waw "meeting/getting together/junction" Saki Ta-waw Isle A La Crosse saki ta-waw ininiwak Isle A La Crosse People sakpwatsak see saka pwat-sak sasi-w Sarcee/Tsuu T'Ina sasi-wak Sarcee/Tsuu T'Ina Indians Saskowa Atin Chinook Wind sawan South Sawan Atin South Wind sipi "river/stream" sipi asis "creek/streamlet, little river" sipi wi iniwak Battle River Indians, "river/stream people"; those bands trading at Fort Pitt, based out of the Jackfish Lake- Onion Lake area sipisis see sipi asis sisip "duck" sisip pimo-tew "Duck Walking", "Waddles", "Walks Like A Duck" siwap "sweet" siwap wi iniwak Shuswap Indians wachak see o chak wachi "hill/mountain" wachi-is "small hill/mountain" -wak, -sak a suffix denoting plural wapos "rabbit" wapos wi iniwak "rabbit people"; Nehiyaw-Pwat of the Swan River-Assiniboine River area waska-hi-kan "house" waska-hi-kan ininiwak Fort Carlton Indians, "house people" Wesakachak name of the Trickster spirit wi "we/all of us/everyone" wiki-wam "lodge" Wi Iniwak "People" (implying a group of mixed origins) wi taski-win "The place where all of us/everyone speak to each other"; Place of making peace. Wisakachak (WI SAKA O CHAK) The Trickster of legend. witiko !DO NOT SAY THIS WORD! An Ice-Cannibal; simiar to the nordic Frost Giants. monster with a heart of ice. By unknown means he can turn others into WITIKO. One of the few bad monsters in Cree mythology. No true description available; larger than humans and perhaps similar to the Frost Giants of Norse mythology. Not totally bad; WITIKO help the Thunderbirds in their battles against giant snakes, the underwater panthers and Elk Medicine, who are all held to be evil. Saying the name is believed to cause the onset of cold, a blizzard or strom. Seems to work.
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