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Cree
Cree First Nations:
Canoe Lake First Nation
Island Lake First Nation
Flying Dust First Nation
Waterhen Lake First Nation
Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation

Cree Language Description
In Canada there are ten major linguistic groups of Indian languages, one of which is the Algonkian family. Cree is one of fourteen languages that make up this Algonkian family. Some of the other Algonkian languages are Blackfoot, Saulteaux (Ojibway), Odawa, and Micmac.

Cree settlements and reservations are scattered throughout Canada from Quebec to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A few settlements in northern British Columbia also speak Cree.

There are five major variants, or dialects, of Cree:

1. Plains Cree - Y - Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta

2. Woodlands Cree - Th - Northern Saskatchewan and in some areas of Manitoba.

3. Swampy Cree - N - Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan and the interior of Manitoba.

4. Moose Cree - L - Moose Factory and Hudson Bay area.

5. Atihkamêk Cree - R - Quebec.

The Quebec Atihkamêk Cree is the one dialect which is very different from the others, however, there are enough similarities that one could get the "gist" of a conversation.

Sound and Spelling System:
Fourteen letters of the Roman Alphabet are used to represent the sounds of the Cree language, Compared to the twenty-six letters used for the English language. These letters represent seventeen sounds plus sounds of several combinations of consonant clusters. The ten consonants are p, t, k, c, s, m, n, h, w, and y. Most consonants are pronounced similar to their English counterparts but there are four which need special attention. These four are the p, t, k and c.

Consonants
c, k, p, and t

c.........pronounced like the "ts" in cats
k.........Pronounced as a cross between a "g" in "gill" and "k" in "kill".
p.........a cross between the "p" in "pit" and the "b" in "bit" when it is in the beginning and in the middle. It has a softer aspirated sound when it is at the end of a word.
t.........is pronounced like the "t" in "stanza". In other words it is a cross between the "t" in "tin" and the "d" in "dim".

Vowels
The four vowels are divided to accommodate the long and short vowel sounds of Cree.

Short Vowels are spoken quickly.

These are the a, i, and o.

o..........pronounced like the initial "o" in "oppose".
i...........pronounced like the "i" in "it".
a..........pronounced like the first "a" in " appeal".

Long Vowels are enunciated slowly. They are written like the regular vowels but with a line over the vowel. This line is known as a macron and is important in reading and writing Cree in the Roman Orthography since without it one cannot distinguish sound differentiations. Furthermore, leaving the macron out would give you a different meaning of a word as this example illustrates:

1. asam...........feed him/her/it.

2. asâm...........a snowshoe

The long vowels are:

â, î, ô, and ê.

â..........pronounced like the "a" in "father".
î...........pronounced like the "i" in "machine".
ô..........pronounced like the "o" in "ore".
ê..........pronounced like the "e" in "berry".

["Cree Language Description" used with permission and excerpted from Cree Language of the Plains, Seventh, corrected edition copyright 1992, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College Bellegarde (Okimâsis), Jean L. and Ratt, Solomon] Contact:

sratt@tansi.sifc.edu

dilll@tansi.sifc.edu

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