April 30, 2007

Cree language to go online with new Internet dictionary


Miyo Wahkohtowin Community Education Authority (MWCEA) and Dr. Earle Waugh Dir. Center for Culture & Health Family Medicine, University of Alberta (U of A) are partnering to develop a web based interactive First Nations language portal with dictionary and curriculum based resources to further the development for Cree language in Canada.

A new Cree dictionary, containing more than 30,000 words, plus audio and video recordings is going online.

Cree language is going high tech

  Proud to be Cree 50 x60 Fleece Blanket
Proud to be Cree 50 x60 Fleece Blanket

The Cree language is going high tech as part of the Cree Language Resource Project that was announced on Friday at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv).

The project is a joint initiative between the FNUniv, the Miyo Wahkohtowin Community Education Authority (MWCEA) and Intellinet Technologies Inc. The partners are working towards developing an online Cree-English dictionary.

“It’s not for profit,” said Loretta Pete-Lambert, director of education at the MWCEA.

“Its intention is to preserve Cree, enhance Cree for individuals interested in learning about Cree.”

The MWCEA, a K-to-12 school located on the Ermineskin Cree Nation in Alberta, is responsible for spearheading the initiative.

Pete-Lambert said the concept of an online dictionary that was both educational and interactive grew out of the need to find resources to teach the Cree language.

The online Cree dictionary will be available by the end of May or early June


She anticipates the dictionary will be available by the end of May or the beginning of June. The dictionary is currently being worked on to ensure that everything is working as it should.

In November, Pete-Lambert signed a similar agreement with the University of Alberta to make its Cree dictionary available online. She feels it’s important to convert as many of the existing First Nations dictionaries to an online version as a way of creating a more complete resource tool.

The project is moving forward very quickly because of the support Pete-Lambert has received from those involved in the project, like her school’s information technologies person, Ahmed Jawad.

“He sees this as a very good resource for our school system. He’s committed to it. He has passion behind it,” Pete-Lambert said of Jawad, who has also had to learn the Cree-syllabics system so that he’s able to understand the intricacies involved with the First Nations language.

Jawad is also the president of Intellinet Technologies Inc. and is responsible for developing the online version.

Richard Lightning, an elder from the Ermineskin First Nation, said he was overwhelmed by the whole project and is amazed by what technology is able to do.

“Hopefully the First Nations people in this province support every effort to be able to revive and restore the language and the culture, because the two go hand in hand,” said Lightning.

Arok Wolvengrey, an associate professor in the Indian Languages Department at the FNUniv, has provided all the information from his dictionary, nehiyawewin: itwewina/Cree words, for the online version.

He jumped at the opportunity to have his dictionary go online because he knew it was not something he would have been able to do on his own.

“I certainly did not have the expertise to take it to that next level,” said Wolvengrey.

The online project will include audio files and video clips of Cree speakers

“So this is perfect. It allows us to expand, to continually add information to the database … But we’re going way beyond that, doing audio files and video clips.”

Wolvengrey’s passion for the Cree language began when he was introduced to it as a child. He has dedicated much of career to learning and preserving it.

Wolvengrey sees the potential the Internet can play in Cree retention intiatives and says incorporating the syllabic-writing system as well as a pronunciation key will go a long way in helping people learn and retain the language.

The dictionary converts words from their English form into their Cree translation using Cree syllabics or the Roman alphabet. It can create flash cards and story boards, and includes games and testing components for children as well as a database of lesson plans for teachers.

Where to find the Cree online dictionary

The online dictionary is available at www.creedictionary.com. It contains more than 30,000 Cree words.

AUTHOR: Kerry Benjoe, The Leader-Post

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