I’ll Teach You Cree

Gregory Scofield

with the tip of my spring tongue, ayîki 

your mouth will be the web

catching apihkêsis words,

a crawling-out ceremony

that cannot be translated.


hâw, pîkiskwê!


I’ll teach you Cree, nêhiyawêwin

that is the taste

of pimiy êkwa saskatômina

Your mouth with be the branches

I am picking clean,

a summer heat ceremony

that cannot be translated.


hâw, pîkiskwê!


Ill teach you Cree

in the winter, pipon

when the dogs curl against our backs.

Your mouth will be pawâcakinâsis-pîsim

that cannot be translated.

It will be a ceremony.


hâw, pîkiskwê!


I’ll teach you Cree

ê-kohk mistahi ê-sâkihitan.

It will be in the fall, this ceremony.

You will have the mouth of a beaver, .

thick and luminescent.


I will make my camp there

ê-kohk mistahi ê-sâkihitan.

This cannot be translated.


hâw, pîkiskwê!

Dive in
  1. Using the Online Cree Dictionary, translate all the Cree words found in the poem. 
  2. How does the poet use the four seasons to unfold the imagery and storytelling found in the poem? Share some examples from the text.
  3. What do you think the poet means when Scofield writes “this cannot be translated?”
  4. Which verse resonates with you the most and why?
  5. If you were to recite this poem, which aspects would be challenging and how do you anticipate meeting these challenges?


Writing Activity


Think about something in your life that “cannot be translated”. Write two to three verses, using inspiration from the four seasons, to express what “cannot be translated”. 


Modified Version: Think about something in your life that “cannot be translated”. Using the format of a list, express what “cannot be translated”. 


Useful Links


  1. Gregory Scofield Reading for the University of Calgary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dK7cdiB-5u4
  2. Good Company with Shelagh Rogers and Gregory Scofield: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Agm7A8ZBuKk
  3. Online Cree Dictionary: https://www.creedictionary.com/
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Bibliographical info

“I’ll Teach You Cree” by Gregory Scofield from kipocihkân, Nightwood Editions, 2009, www.nightwoodeditions.com

Source: kipocihkân (Nightwood Editions, 2009)

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