Speaking Naskapi

Naskapi, written in beads
Naskapi, written in beads

Tamika encouraged me to speak more Naskapi to Nya the other day, and suddenly I had infinitely more respect for the displaced Naskapi parents out there trying  to teach their kids their native tongue.

Growing up there were a few kids at school who couldn’t speak Naskapi as well as I could, and I always thought this was kind of strange. Most often, the kid either grew up part of the time down south, away from the reservation, or had only one Naskapi parent (the other being Montagnais or European-Canadian).

These kids often struggled with Naskapi, and now it makes more sense. It’s a tiny language, with only 1000 or so speaking it. So, when thrust in competition with another more wide-spread language (Montagnais is huge, for example), the smaller language is harder to keep up.

So today, I tried talking to Nya in Naskapi.
And lo and behold, it ain’t easy. It felt extremely unnatural at first, I had to fight to remember phrases and words that were relevant.

I honestly have trouble talking to babies period. It seems a little weird, i’m more the type to just sit and work on something, listening to music.

Eventually, though, the teacher in me kicked in, and I began describing what I was doing to Nya. Even in Naskapi. The morning ritual of feeding her Cheerios and a bottle became “Chi wi michuuna cheerios, a?” (do you want to eat cheerios?) and “Chi wi min a?” (would you like to drink?). One of the words I can’t remember is milk. I’ll have to look it up online in the dictionary later.

19 Replies to “Speaking Naskapi”

  1. milk=chichinaapuich

    Also, go here to get the on-line interactive map with Naskapi phrases to learn:


    Zoom in on Kawawa and click the icon for the phrase in Audio.

    Change the topic and phrase by clicking on links on the upper right.

    It was originally set up to compare dialects, but it also works as a language learning tool. (for those far-flung Naskapi friends living outside Kawawa).

  2. it is always a sad moment when you realize you have forgotten words. I usualy stop and and go “grrr”.

    On a side note, I need to ask Tamika if you still speak Naskapi in your sleep…..

  3. Okay, yes dad I would like that. Saying hello and even a small conversation, when I see mom and dad. I have had a hard time learning spanish, but for my family Ben and Tamika, I would like to know a few words

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