Lesson 2

Welcome to Lesson 2 … but first, a word from our sponsor:

And this is how you can address our sponsor (or sponsors) …

Relationships are everything to us Michif.

Our language is based on our relationships to each other as Michif, to the land, to our ancestors (both born and unborn), and to non-Michif.

Noohkoom (Grandma) and Mii Taante (my Aunties) said our language was one of the main reasons we were so successful as harvesters, hunters, and organizers. Beginning in the early 1800s, many people began to venture into what is now Western Canada, and many languages being spoken.

We Michif were commonly fluent in multiple languages, which made us natural translators and guides. And just as Noohkoom was super secretive about her favourite berry-picking spot, we were secretive about our tactics in pursuit of food, clothing, tools, etc. (again, thank you to our sponsor) …

Here are some words for those close to us:

Mother … probably didn’t need to sound this one out.
Or this one … Father.

Here are some alternate words you’ll hear for Mother and Father. I’ve also added the possessives to denote that the speaker is talking specifically about his/her own Mother and Father.

MY” Mother AND Father.

What about “YOUR” Mother and Father?

I’m glad you asked …

“YOUR” Mother AND Father.

A person might also use the French versions of your Mother and your Father. In that case: Congratulations! You obviously speak some French.

Now, back to our language.

In my view, Grandmother is the most important word you’ll come across. It’s a word that represents the Earth, Nature, and the women who carried the lives of all the men and women who came before us … and will come after us.

You’ll frequently hear people refer to Grandmothers in general with this word:

That word refers to Grandmothers in general, or, specifically to “YOUR” Grandmother (as in, if I’m referring to your Grandma, that’s the word I would use).

In reference to “MY” Grandmother, I’ll use this word:

“MY” Grandmother.


Lesson 1

Okay … there are two rules of Michif club.

Here is the first:


And here is the second:


Don’t those phrases sound alike? That’s because the second word (the word for “practice”) is really just repeat again, and again, and again …

There are many ways to say hello.

Here’s the one you’ll hear most frequently (for more information on this, please see https://liimichif.com/greetings/).

Hello (kind of …)

This is how we ask another person (one person) how they are:

How are you?

And here’s how we might greet a group:

Hello (to more than one person)

And here are more (depending upon the situation, of course):

Good morning!
Good afternoon!
Good evening?

And, finally, two ways of saying your name (I’ll use my own name, but please use yours … unless your name is also Graham, then you can borrow my name …). One is arguably more tricky:

My name is [insert your name here].
[Insert your name here] is what I am named.


What is and what wasn’t

Today, we’re going to learn about greeting people, and we’re going to begin with one word you will commonly hear … “Taanishi”!

The word “Taanishi” has become indelibly associated with a form of greeting, but it’s really much more than that. The word actually means “How”, as in “How is [insert animate or inanimate object here]?”

I like to think of it as “What is the quality of [insert animate or inanimate object here]?”

Press on the play button immediately below to hear the word:

Hello (sort of) …

In today’s fast-paced world, we’ve become used to passing people on the street while saying or hearing, “Hey! How’s it going?” The speaker and responder hardly break stride.

Noohkoom would either cry or scream (it really depends on what kind of personality your grandmother has) if she heard this, because, when Noohkoom says, “Taanishi”, she really means: “Taanishi kiiya?”

“What is the quality of YOU?”

Noohkoom is really saying, she wants to know about any news you might have for her or anything you might need to talk about. She’ll probably put on a pot of tea and be willing to listen for as long as you need to talk about your joys, your troubles, or both.

It’s also a great way for her to ask questions about what’s going on with your siblings and parents … Oh. And by the way: She probably already knows the answers to her questions, so don’t even think about fibbing.

How are you?

Questions (Part 2)

We Michif ask a lot of questions! Here is how my family asks: When? Where? Why? How much?

How many?

Birch, Bark, and Baskets

This basket was a gift from the Province of Alberta. If you recognize the creator of this basket, please let me know so proper credit can be given.

We had a use for everything, and we used everything we took from Grandmother Earth. Tree bark was no exception.

Birch bark has become particularly known for building canoes, but it was equally important when used for waterproofing shelters, or making bowls and baskets for preparing, carrying, and storing food.

Owing to the relative ease with which birch bark can be stripped from trees (always in exchange for an appropriate offering of tobacco and prayer, of course), it also provides excellent parchment or artists’ canvas.

Bark (tree)
Birch bark
Birch-bark basket

Questions (Part 1)


We all need to ask questions, and there can be no questions if we don’t know basic questioning words (or “interrogatives”).

How else can we be expected to learn about each other, new ideas, and the location of Noohkoom’s (Grandma’s) secret berry-picking place?

(Word to the wise: Even if we ask nicely, there’s no guarantee that Noohkoom will give up that information)

In our traditional Michif culture, questions were also an important way to hold each other accountable.

In the event of wrongdoing, questioning was also the fundamental way in which we re-balanced our relationships and our communities.

Let’s begin with who, what, and how …