Episode 27: The Cree Calendar

Ben Freeland stands outside on a snowy September day

With geese flying south in August and snow in September, it sometimes feels like winter in Edmonton spills far outside its season. What if instead of getting frustrated with the weather though, we tweaked the way we measured the year?

Ben Freeland learned that the Cree calendar divides the year into six seasons. So he wondered why we don’t revive the calendar here in Treaty Six territory.

Ben is a member of Taproot Edmonton, and he posted his question on the story garden over there. We helped Ben explore that question by speaking with Cree teachers Yvonne and Norma Saddleback.

Just this once, free to read along as you’re listening to this episode, since it introduces some new vocabulary.

Norma Saddleback standing outside in front of a tree on sunny day in August/ohpahopîsim/ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᐲᓯᒼ
Norma Saddleback, on sunny day in August/ohpahopîsim/ᐅᐦᐸᐦᐅᐲᓯᒼ

Norma Saddleback and Yvonne Saddleback are both Cree syllabics teachers and members of the Samson Cree First Nation. Norma teaches elementary students at schools around the Maskwacis reserve, and Yvonne teaches adult university and college students.

Norma shared an instructional sheet she uses to teach the months in Plains Cree.

The seasons of the year, as explained by Norma (italics indicates not commonly used):

Spring/Ice break-up: miyoskamin ᒥᔪᐢᑲᒥᐣ
Late Spring: miyoskamin ᒥᔪᐢᑲᒥᐣ
Summer: nîpin ᓃᐱᐣ
Fall: takwâkin ᑕᑳᐧᑭᐣ
Ice Freeze-up: mikiskaw ᒥᑭᐢᑲᐤ
Winter: pipon ᐱᐳᐣ

Further Reading:


  1. Loved this episode — and am excited to hear more of this podcast! It’s beautifully put together and I learnt so much. Thanks!


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