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Indigenous Word of the Week Compilation



Hey everyone! This week, we wanted to highlight the amazing work done on the ITMP social media pages. This compilation post spotlights the “Word of the Week” from our Instagram.

As some of you might know, there are currently over forty languages Indigenous languages in Canada with less than five-hundred speakers. These languages are disappearing, and we want to do our part to help keep them alive.

Also, please understand that none of us at ITMP are fluent in any Indigenous languages. We are doing the best we can with the resources we have! If you notice any mistakes, please let us know so we can correct them! Also, feel free to suggest more languages and words that you would like to see spotlighted!



The compilation:


Word 1: Boozhoo (Ojibwe). This word is used to greet others, similar to hello. There are many stories behind the meaning and creation of the word Boozhoo. One version of the story is that a creator and trickster, Nanaboozhoo (or Nanabush in some stories), promised that he would return. When you would meet someone new, you would always ask, “are you Nanaboozhoo?” because people were waiting for his return. This eventually turned into what we hear today, “Boozhoo!”



Word 2: Marsii (Michif). Marsii means thank you. Michif is an endangered language with just over one thousand speakers remaining in Canada! The language is a mix of the French and Cree languages, and it was created when French farmers and traders immigrated to the traditional Cree lands. The Michif language does not have a spelling system. Instead, words are spelt phonetically. This is why there are many ways to spell a single word in Michif. You may find the word Marsii spelled as Maarsi or Marsee!


Word 3: Word 3: Stó:lō (Halq’eméylem) Many of you may be familiar with the word Stó:lō because of the Stó:lō People! This word means river. Thus, when referring to the community, it means “people of the river.”


Word 4: Maskwa (Cree). Maskwa means bear. The Cree language is the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Canada! However, there has been a decrease in Cree speakers over the past few years. Also, the Cree language wasn't always written with the Roman alphabet. Before, it was written using syllabics. There are many stories as to how the Cree written language (Cree syllabary) came about. One story was that Mistanâkôwêw, also known as Calling Badger, delivered the language to the Cree people. The language can now be written with both syllabics and the Roman alphabet. The word Maskwa can also be written as ᒪᐢᑲ. There are also other terms for a polar bear, such as wâpask, and osâwask for a brown bear. If you would like to know more you can visitwww.creedictionary.com


Word 5: Tungasugit (Inuktitut), This word means welcome. The Inuktitut language can be written in both the Roman alphabet and with syllabics, similar to Cree. The word welcome in Inuktitut is pronounced “Toong-a-su-git”. Using syllabics, the word is written as ᐊᕆᐅᙵᐃᐹ.


Word 6: Miigwech (Ojibwe). This word means thanks. We have another word from the Ojibwe language! Like many other Indigenous languages, Ojibwe was not a written language. This is why you may see other ways to spell miigwech. Other versions you may see are meegwetch, miigwetc or even migwetc. To say, “big thanks” or “big thank you”, you can add “chi” before the word miigwech (Chi-miigwech).


Word 7: Nimâmâ (Michif). This word means mother. There are also many other ways to say mother and refer to maternal figures! In Michif, “nohkom” means “grandmother” and “câpân” means “great grandmother.” For Ojibwe speakers, “ninja” means “my mother.” For Inuktitut speakers, “anaana” means “mother” or “mother to be.” “Nikawi” means “mother” in Cree, and “tátel” means “mother” in Halq’eméylem.



Word 8: P’ésk’a (Halq’eméylem). Halq’eméylem is a part of the Salishan family of languages. This language is spoken by the Stó:lō Nation. They inhabit the Fraser valley area in British Columbia. The first traces of people in this area date from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The name for their territory was S'ólh Téméxw. For more information and pronunciation check out www.firstvoices.com!


Word 9: Mitsikwak (Cree). The word Mistikwak means trees. It can also be written in Cree syllabics as ᒥᐢᑎᑿᐠ


Word 10: Ataata (Inuktitut). Ataata means father. It is pronounced a-TAA-ta. Grandfather in Inuktitut is ataatatsiaq, pronounced a-TAA-tat-si-aq. We want to share how to say father in a few other languages as well! For Michif speakers, “nipâpâ” means “father,” and for pronunciation you can check out metismuseum.ca. For Ojibwe speakers, “oosan” means “father,” and for pronunciation you can check out Ojibwe Peoples Dictionary. For Cree speakers, “nohtawi” means “father,” and for pronunciation you can check out creedictionary.com. Lastly, in Halq’eméylem, “mál” means “father” and “mamel” means “dad.”


Word 11: Dibiki-giizis (Ojibwe). This means moon. In Ojibwe tradition, one full moon to the next is considered a month, with 13 cycles in a year. Each full moon has a traditional name. For example, the September moon is called Waatebagaa-giizis (leaves turning moon). You can check out the rest of the names and more on www.Ojibwe.net.


Word 12: Ii Salay (Michif). This word means sun. There are many different stories about the sun’s beginning across Turtle Island. A common story on the west coast is that the Ravan was the one to release the sun from a confining box. From then on the sun has given everything warmth and life. The Sun is a symbol of life-giving in many cultures. It gives warmth and peace to everything below.


Word 13: Temhilálxw (Halq’eméylem). For our last word in this compilation, we have the word autumn/fall, which is very fitting for this time of year! There are also many links to different Indigenous language dictionaries on the ITMP Linktree. Check them out to find new words or to listen to the pronunciation of any words we have posted!


Be sure to follow the ITMP Instagram page for more updates and fun posts like this!





Authors: Shay, ITMP Vice Chief, Cultural Outreach and Advocacy and Misha, ITMP Blog Coordinator


Photo Credits: ISCEI via McGill Language Revitalization






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