What is the English translation of the NA plains Cree word >nihithawan as found in Rosanna Deerchild's novel Calling Down The Sky, page 5? Our book club is studying this novel and we cannot find the Cree (NA Plains) to English translation on line anywhere. We cannot guess its meaning by its context either.

Thank you for helping us out, if you can or cannot, the effort would be greatly appreciated.


Wendy Noll


  • You're going to have to give a definition for the Cree word. What does it mean? (And if you don't know what it means, we certainly can't provide an English equivalent on this site.) Can you at least quote the sentence in which it's placed? May 14, 2019 at 17:32
  • Strangely, a google search for nihithawan brings up results for the Cree language, without that word being available. May 14, 2019 at 17:35
  • Calling Down the Sky doesn't appear to be a novel, but a collection of poetry, which just about guarantees that it is impossible for us to suggest a translation without additional context. What is the exact text, please? Have you tried comparing the English translation with the French translation, perhaps?
    – choster
    May 14, 2019 at 18:43
  • Updated my answer after response from author
    – jonathanjo
    May 15, 2019 at 19:44
  • Thank you so much. Everyone was so helpful and we received the answers we needed. May 16, 2019 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


I wrote to the author who told me simply it means "Speak Cree".

The following is my tiny amount of understanding of Cree from Wikipedia pages and other online resources.

  • Nihithawak means the Cree people, in th-dialect Cree (ref)
  • Nihithawan means "Speak Cree", in th-dialect Cree (author email)

Woods Cree is Nīhithawīwin, ᓀᐦᐃᖬᐍᐏᐣ‎ in Woods Cree. (ref)

According to wikipedia: Cree is syllabic and highly inflected, and comes in a number of dialects, including "th-dialect" and "y-dialect" (ref). Only Woods Cree has th (written as y syllables modified with a crossbar) and also e has merged with i.

So Woods Cree Nihitha- might be Nehiya- in other forms of Cree.

A Cree dictionary gives some support to this:

  • nehiyawak ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐊᐧᐠ NA the Cree people (EC)
  • nehiyawewin ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐁᐧᐃᐧᐣ N The Cree language. (MD)

The inflections of Cree include prefixes, infixes, suffixes and can be compound. The dictionary gives two which illustrate the complexity.

  • nehiyawe ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐁᐧ VC Speak Cree. (MD)
  • nêhiyawêmototawêw ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐁᐧᒧᑐᑕᐁᐧᐤ VTA s/he speak Cree to s.o. (CW)

This entire question is probably better suited to Linguistics SE

  • 2
    Very,very cool but sort of off-topic.....But I would let it slide since we need to give back to Amerindians any way we can.
    – Lambie
    May 15, 2019 at 20:31

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