Months in the Cree language are a recurring topic of conversation in our communities as these have mostly been supplanted by English or French names. It is quite natural, in fact, to hear elderly monolingual speakers make use of the English or French names, often followed by the Cree ᐲᓯᒽ, meaning ‘month.’ There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is the variability from one community to another that complicates communication when the calendar is involved. This is largely because months are often named after seasonal phenomena that naturally vary from region to region. As a result, certain names that are common to multiple dialects may not always refer to the same month.
Below, you will find a comparison of the names of the months in six Cree dialects, those spoken at Attawapiskat (eastern Swampy Cree, an N-dialect), Moose Factory (Moose Cree, an L-dialect), Waskaganish (southern coastal East Cree, a Y-dialect), Waswanipi (southern inland East Cree, a Y-dialect), Opitciwan (Atikamekw, an R-dialect), and Pessamit (southern Innu-aimun, an L-dialect). The names will be spelled phonologically using syllabics to facilitate the comparison. It is important to note that only the first four dialects are officially written using syllabics. The others have adopted Latin script orthographies.
|Moose Factory||ᑭᔐ ᐹᐦᐲᐙᐦᑕᑭᓇᒽ|
|Waskaganish||ᒪᑯᔐ ᒌᔑᑳᐤ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᐗᔭᐐᒪᑲᓄ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᑳ ᒋᓄᔑᑦ ᐲᔑᒽ (F)|
|Moose Factory||ᑭᔐ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waskaganish||ᑳ ᑕᐦᑯᑯᒋᐦᒃ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᑳ ᑕᐦᑯᔑᑦ ᐲᔑᒽ|
|Moose Factory||ᒥᑭᓯᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᒥᒋᔑᐤ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᒥᑭᔑᐤ ᐲᔑᒽ|
|Moose Factory||ᓂᔅᑭ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᔒᔒᐱ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᓂᔅᑭ ᐲᔑᒽ|
|Opitciwan||ᑳ ᐙᓯᑲᑐᑦ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Moose Factory||ᐊᓖᑭᔑ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Moose Factory||ᓵᑭᐸᑳᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᐙᐱᑯᓐ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᔖᒋᐸᑳᐤ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᓇᒣᐤ ᐲᔑᒽ (F)|
|Moose Factory||ᐅᐸᔥᑰᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ, ᐸᔥᑰᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᒣᒀ ᓃᐱᓄ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᐅᑌᐦᐃᒥᓐ ᐲᔑᒽ (F)|
|Moose Factory||ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐆᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᐊᑎᐦᑌᐎᒥᓐ ᐲᔑᒽ (F)|
|Moose Factory||ᐌᐦᐌᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Moose Factory||ᐅᐱᒪᐦᐊᒧᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ, ᐱᒪᐦᐊᒧᐎ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᐱᓈᔅᒌᐤ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᐐᔖᑯ ᐲᔑᒽ|
|Moose Factory||ᐲᐧᐋᐦᑕᑭᓇᒽ, ᐲᐙᐦᑕᑭᓇᔑᔥ, ᐹᐦᐲᐙᐦᑕᑭᓇᒽ, ᐹᐦᐲᐙᐦᑕᑭᓇᔑᔥ, ᒪᑯᔐ ᐲᓯᒽ|
|Waswanipi||ᐲᐦᒉᒪᑲᓄ ᐲᔑᒽ, ᒪᑯᔐᒌᔑᑲᓐ ᐲᔑᒽ (F)|
Sources for the above are as follows: Attawapiskat, Angela Sheesheesh (Facebook post, 2020); Moose Factory, Dictionary of Moose Cree – 3rd edition (2019); Waskaganish, Annie Whiskeychan’s Lexicon (1973); Waswanipi, Waswanipi Realities and Adaptations: Resource Management and Cognitive Structure (Feit, 1978), Jane Saganash (2020), Allan Saganash (2020), Maggie Gull (2020), and Emma Sagansh (2020); Opitciwan, Atikamekw Morphology and Lexicon (Béland, 1978) & Dictionnaire atikamekw (online, 2020); and Pessamit, Dictionnaire français-montagnais (Drapeau, 1991).
Note that the Waswanipi is a mixed dialect transitioning towards Southern Inland East Cree. The speech of elders speakers of this dialect contains many features of the dialect directly to the south, that of Opitciwan. There are thus a variety of month names collected in this community. Terms followed by (F) were unknown to speakers consulted and are therefore only found in Feit, 1978.
Fieldwork in the six dialects undertaken by the author of this blog informs the above phonological spellings.