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Cree (ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ / Nēhiyawēwin)

Cree is an Algonquian language spoken by about 120,000 people in Canada, from the Northwest Territories and Alberta to Labrador. Cree, which is also known as Cree–Montagnais–Naskapi, has official status, along with eight other indigenous languages, in the Northwest Territories.

Major varieties of Cree include:

Cree syllabics

James Evans (1801-1846) was a Wesleyan missionary working at Norway House in Hudson's Bay, invented a syllabary for the Ojibwe language in about 1840. He had tried to produce a Latin-based orthography for Ojibwe, but eventually gave up and came up with a syllabary, based partly on shorthand.

Evans' syllabary for Ojibwe consisted of just nine symbols, each of which could be written in four different orientations to indicate different vowels. This was sufficient to write Ojibwe, but Evans' superiors were not keen on his invention and would not allow him to use it.

Later Evans learnt to speak Cree and set about the task of devising a way of writing that language. After encountering difficulties with using the Latin alphabet, he dug out his Ojibwe syllabary and adapted it to write Cree.

Thanks to its simplicity and the ease with which it could be learnt, the Cree syllabary was hugely successful with the Cree people. Within a short space of time, virtually the whole community was literate in the syllabary and James Evans became known as "the man who made birchbark talk."


According to Cree tradition, Evans adapted an existing script which was invented at an earlier date, possibly by a member of the Blackfoot nation.

Notable Features

Used to write

Modified versions of this syllabary are used to write: Blackfoot, Ojibwe, Carrier, Slavey, Naskapi and Inuktitut.

Cree syllabary (Plains/Swampy Cree)

Cree syllabary (Plains/Swampy Cree)

Cree syllabary (Woodland Cree)

Cree syllabary (Woodland Cree)

Sample text in Swampy Cree

Sample text in Cree

misiwe ininiw tipenimitisowinik eshi nitawikit nesta peywakan kici ishi kanawapamikiwisit kistenimitisowinik nesta minikowisiwima. e pakitimamacik kaketawenitamowininiw nesta mitonenicikaniniw nesta wicikwesitowinik kici ishi kamawapamitocik.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Cree | Phrases | Learning materials


Information on the Cree language and people

Online Cree learning resources

Universal Syllabic Translator

Online Cree dictionary

Cree fonts

Cree Language Reader - texts in Cree with translations in English

Algonquian languages

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas

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