So many Métis words in interior PNW languages (part 5: Saulteau First Nation/Plains Cree)

It should be no surprise that a Plains Cree dialect would carry marks of Métis culture.


(Image credit: Lands Advisory Board Research Centre)

Plains Cree historically contributed the main component, along with Métis French, of the mixed Red River language Michif.

The Saulteau First Nation of northeastern British Columbia has a small dictionary online of its variety of Plains Cree.

Cree languages typically borrow rather few words from foreign sources, as far as I’ve seen. What you often see instead is the formation of new words using purely Cree components.

That said, I can spot a number of words in Saulteau FN Cree that are of great relevance to us in our ongoing learning about the huge Métis role in shaping BC’s language history, and in the formation of Chinook Jargon:

  • maskehkēw[-]āpoy ‘muskeg tea; mint tea; [literally] medicine fluid’
    • Note, another Plains Cree online dictionary has the cognate ᒪᐢᑫᑳᐧᐳᕀ, maskêkw[-]âpoy ‘muskeg tea’, synonyms:
    • ᒪᐢᑫᑯᐸᑲᐧ, maskêko[-]pakwa lit. ‘muskeg-plants’ i.e. ‘muskeg tea, Labrador tea’,
    • which is also one of the local English definitions of ᑳᑭᑫᐸᑲᐧ, kâkikê[-]pakwa (lit. ‘forever-plants’);
    • a freestanding word is ᒪᐢᑫᐠ, maskêk ‘muskeg, swamp, bog’ ;
    • (speculatively noting here: -(ā)poy is used in Plains Cree words for ‘stew’ etc. and is tantalizingly close to Chinuk Wawa’s púyu ‘broth; soup’ from Métis French!)
  • akayāsemōwin ‘the act of speaking English’ is said to be based on French anglais ‘English’
  • ē[-]mihkwān[-]is ‘a small teaspoon’ is related to Chinuk Wawa mikwen ‘horn spoon’
  • maci ‘bad, wicked, evil’ (a “particle”) resembles CW másháchi ‘bad, evil, mean’
  • minōs[-]is ‘kitten’ is from Métis French minouche ‘cat’
  • mitās ‘pants’ is related to Chinuk Wawa’s word for ‘leggings’
  • nah ‘verb command to mean Here! as in take it’ resembles CW ná ‘hey!; here!’ (interjections of essentially identical form occur in languages throughout the greater Pacific Northwest)
  • nohkom ‘grandmother’ is identical to Michif
  • ni[-]mosôm ‘grandfather’ uses the identical root to Michif

The Sauteau First Nation identify more as Dene and Cree, but the above words form part of the web of Métis cultural traces that we find across the PNW.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?