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Native Languages of the Americas: Cree
Language: Cree is an Algonquian language
spoken by more than 70,000 people across southern Canada and into Montana. There are five major Cree dialects: Western/Plains Cree,
Northern/Woodlands Cree, Central/Swampy Cree, Moose Cree, and Eastern Cree. Some linguists consider these distinct languages, but they are largely
mutually intelligible. The most divergent is Eastern Cree, which some consider a closer relative to the Innu languages
Montagnais and Naskapi
than to the other Cree dialects--then again, others consider Montagnais, Naskapi, and/or Atikamekw
to be dialects of Cree themselves. This lack of linguistic consensus reveals the remarkable diversification of the Cree language. In general, Cree people can
understand the dialects of communities closest to them, but not those further away: though a Northern Cree may understand both a Western Cree
and an Eastern Cree, they might have trouble understanding each other, and only the East Cree speaker would have hope of understanding Montagnais.
All five Cree dialects (though not Atikamekw or the Innu languages) are written in a unique syllabary which
uses shapes to represent consonants and rotates them in the Four Directions to represent vowels. There are two more languages
which, while not Cree, are heavily influenced by Cree: Michif, a Metis creole combining French nouns
with Cree verbs, and Severn Ojibway, an Ojibwe dialect often called "Oji-Cree" because it has
borrowed liberally from Cree and uses the Cree syllabary instead of the Roman alphabet used by most other Ojibwe speakers. One of the most important and
influential of American Indian languages, Cree also has one of the best chances of conitnued survival, with many children being raised bilingually or in Cree with English or French
as a second language. Cree is a polysynthetic, verb-based language with long words and fairly free word order.
People: The Cree are Canada's largest native group, with 200,000 registered members and dozens of self-governed nations. "Cree" comes from the French name for
the tribe, "Kristenaux," variously said to be a corruption of the French word for "Christian" or an Algonquian word for "first people." When speaking their own language
the Cree refer to themselves as Ayisiniwok, meaning "true men," Nehiyawok, meaning "speakers of our language,"
or Iyiniwok, meaning simply "the people"
(this word has the same Central Algonquian root as the Montagnais word Innu). There are also more
than 100,000 people known as Métis, of mixed-blood Cree, French, and other Canadian ancestry. Though
many Cree regard the Metis as Cree brethren--and, indeed, though many registered Cree Indians are also mixed-blood--the Metis have a unique culture and
their own creole tongue (known as Michif). The
and the Innu (Montagnais and Naskapi) are also related to the Cree but consider themselves distinct.
History: Cree history is very hard to synopsize because the Cree tribe spans such a broad
territory, from the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Though their common
culture and language bind them together as a people, the James Bay Cree and Woodland Cree tribes do
not necessarily have any more shared history than the white people in Quebec and Alberta do.
With that caveat, though, the Cree Indians as a whole have weathered European colonization better
than perhaps any other group of Native Americans. Their sheer numbers and broad range
helped keep them from being too decimated by European diseases to maintain stability, as
happened to many smaller nations, and their particular cultural affinity for intertribal
marriage (remarked upon in the oral histories of their Indian neighbors) meshed well with the intent
of the French, the primary Europeans to have dealings with them. Where the English tended to
try to move Indian groups further away from their civilization, the French tried to engulf
them. The Cree, who had held a similar attitude towards colonization before the French ever
got there, engulfed back. The result was the Metis, a race of primarily
French-Cree mixed-bloods, and distinct French and Cree populations who generally got along
pretty well. Since Canadian nationhood, the Cree people have faced the same problems of
self-determination and land control that every aboriginal group has, but they remain
better-equipped to face them than most, and the Cree language is one of the few North
American languages sure of surviving into the next century.
Cree Language Resources
Cree language samples, articles, and indexed links.
Cree Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Cree Indians past and present.
Cree Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Crees, their language and culture.
Introduction to Cree Indian mythology.
Our Online Cree Language Materials
List of vocabulary words in the Cree language, with comparison to words in other Algonquian languages.
Cree Pronunciation Guide:
How to pronounce Cree words.
Cree Animal Words:
Illustrated glossary of animal words in the Plains Cree language.
Cree Body Parts:
Online and printable worksheets showing parts of the body in the Cree language.
Worksheet showing color words in the Cree language.
Worksheet showing how to count in the Cree language.
Lesson on the use of Cree possessive prefixes.
Cree Animate Nouns:
Lesson on Cree animate and inanimate nouns.
Cree Dictionaries, Audio Tapes and Language Resources
Alberta Elders' Cree Dictionary (Plains/Woods) Cree Words Cree-English Lexicon:
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links
Spoken Cree: Level One Spoken Cree: Level Two:
Cree, Language of the Plain (Audiotape) Cree Syllabics Manual:
Cree language books and tapes for sale.
Outline for a Comparative Grammar of some Algonquian Languages:
Linguistics text comparing the Cree language to several other Algonquian languages.
Cree Language Cree Fontware:
Cree language software for sale.
Our Grandmother's Lives:
Reader of Cree-language stories with English translation.
Bibliographies of Innu and Cree language learning materials.
Department of Indian Languages, Literature and Linguistics:
Language courses in Cree and other indigenous languages at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College.
Canadian translation service specializing in English, French, Chippewa, and Cree.
Ojibway and Cree Cultural Center:
OCCC offers Ojibway and Cree translation, transcription, and interpretation.
Cree Language Structures: A Cree Approach Cree, Language of the Plains:
Origins of Predicates: Evidence from Plains Cree Cree Narrative:
Cree linguistics books for sale.
Eastern Cree Bible:
New Testament translations into the James Bay Cree language, in print and on audiocassette.
Plains Cree storybook for children.
Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi Publications Cree Bibliography:
Bibliographies of Montagnais, Naskapi, and Cree linguistics papers.
Early 20th-century wordlists of the Cree langauge.
Native American Language Dictionaries:
Cree and other American Indian dictionaries and language materials for sale.
Cree Language Community and Tools
Cree Font for Macintosh Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics for Windows:
Cree fonts for free download.
Ojibwe- and Cree-language radio broadcasts.
Cree language community mailing list, poetry, announcements, and links.
List of Ojibway and Cree language courses in Canada, the US, and by distance learning.
Cree Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions
Cree Language Description James Bay Cree:
Overviews of the Cree language.
How To Say It In Cree Cree Language Lessons:
Online Cree language courses (with pronunciation guides, grammar, vocabulary, and exercises).
East Cree Language Web:
Language lessons, grammar, traditional stories and an online dictionary in the East Cree dialect.
The Cree syllabary.
Introduction to the Cree writing system, with a sample text.
Cree orthography and text example.
About the Cree Language Cree Dialects:
Overviews of Cree dialects.
Cherokee and Cree Writing Systems:
Argument that Cree and other Native American writing systems predated European conquest.
Cree Language Dictionary:
Text of an 1874 French-Cree dictionary.
Cree Tipi Words:
Pictures of tepees with associated Plains Cree vocabulary.
Literature and Texts in the Cree Language
Cree Elders Speak:
Stories in Cree and Dene, with English translation.
Dyes for Porcupine Quills .GIF of the syllabics (if you don't have Cree fonts):
Story in Cree, both Roman alphabet and syllabary, with English translation.
Human Rights: Cree Language English translation:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Swampy Cree.
O Canada In Cree:
Text of the Canadian national anthem in Cree.
Moose Cree Language: Moose Cree Orthography: Moose Cree Alphabet Moose Cree Writing:
Moose Cree Pronunciation Moose Cree Text:
Scanned-in Moose Cree language materials from the Rosetta Project.
Plains Cree Language: Plains Cree Book: Plains Cree Alphabet Plains Cree Orthography Plains Cree Writing:
Plains Cree Spelling Plains Cree Text Plains Cree Bible Translation Plains Cree Story:
Scanned-in Plains Cree language materials from the Rosetta Project.
Lord's Prayer in Central Cree Western Cree Prayers:
Cree translations of Christian prayers.
Language Museum: Central Cree Language Museum: Western Cree:
Bible passages in the Cree Indian language.
Omushkego (Swampy) Cree Omushkego Cree in Syllabics Plains Cree:
Plaques on the Canadian Human Rights Tribute.
Cree Language Preservation and Usage
Cree Retention Committee:
Organization dedicated to Cree language maintenance.
Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre: Language:
Program to maintain the Ojibway and Cree languages.
Essay about Cree sociolinguistics.
Cree Language of Instruction Project:
Sociolinguistics paper analyzing the specifics of Cree-language schooling.
Summary report of the 1997 Cree Language and Culture Language Conference.
Finding My Talk:
Cree documentary about language loss and revival among the Cree, Tlingit, Mohawk, and Inuit.
House of Languages: Cree:
Information about Cree language usage.
Plains Cree Woods Cree Swampy Cree Moose Cree East Inland Cree East Coastal Cree:
Demographic information about Cree from the Ethnologue of Languages.
Plains Cree Language Tree Woods Cree Language Tree Eastern Cree Language Tree:
James Bay Cree Language Tree Moose Cree Language Tree Swampy Cree Language Tree:
Theories about Cree's language relationships compiled by Linguist List.
East Cree Language Structures West Cree Language Structures:
Cree linguistic profiles and academic bibliographies.
Cree Proper Names
Cree Place Names Cree Placenames:
Place names and their meanings in the Cree Indian language.
Aboriginal Place Names of Alberta:
List of Blackfoot, Stoney, Cree, Slavey, and Sarcee placenames in southern Alberta, with their English translations.
Indian Dog Names:
Our new fundraiser offering names for dogs and other animals in Native American languages (including Cree).
Additional Resources, Links, and References
Wikipedia: Cree: Plains Cree Language:
Encyclopedia articles on the Cree language.
La Lengua Cree Silabario Cree Idioma Cree:
Articles on the Cree language in Spanish. With a language map and text examples.
Cree Indian books.
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