Volunteers are at the core of the Little Cree Books project! A huge thank-you goes out to everyone who has invested their time, skills, and expertise in support of spreading the Cree language (nehiyawewin).

Matthew Kleywegt, Author

Matt KleywegtThe son of a Cree mother and a Dutch father, Matthew is new to the Edmonton area, having recently moved here from Toronto. He has a degree in English from York University and a degree in Education from the University of Toronto. A teacher by training and an industrial chemical blender by circumstance, Matthew is keen to help in the areas of education, equity, and sustainable living. He particularly enjoys writing for children, sentences with verbs, and coffee.



Tashina Makokis, Author and Illustrator

TashinaTashina is a young Cree woman studying fine arts at the University of Alberta. She connected with the Little Cree Books project when she and Elder Gilman Cardinal presented on Wicihitowin’s Merging of Generations movement at the same Pecha Kucha event Caylie presented at. Chatting afterwards, they found that they had both studied Cree under Dorothy Thunder at the U of A. Tashina is both writing and illustrating books for Little Cree Books, in hopes of helping her young nieces learn the language.

You can connect with Tashina via Twitter at @tdawgyo.




Caylie Gnyra, Project Founder & Manager, Digital Illustrator, and Author


Tân’si! Caylie nitisiyihkâson. Ewîkiyân amiskwaciwâskahikan, mâka Vermilion ohci nîya (ocenâsis sâkâstenohk). Hello! My name is Caylie. I live in Edmonton, but I am from Vermilion (a small town to the east).

I started the Little Cree Books project in 2009, when I was in my second year of a Native Studies after-degree at the University of Alberta. I thought it would be a good chance for me to learn new Cree words, practice the Cree grammar that I had already learned, become more familiar with writing and typing syllabics, and learn how to use the Adobe Illustrator and InDesign software, all while contributing to the development of resources for early Cree readers.

I am excited about this project because it combines so many of the things I love: learning new skills, sharing what I know, and helping Cree and non-Cree people understand and value each other a little more.

Although I love learning the Cree language, it is not my heritage language. My mom’s side is Irish, and my dad is Ukrainian. My dad, his siblings, my grandma and gido, and a few of my cousins speak Ukrainian, but I only know a few words. I am hoping that soon I will be able to find the time to take some courses and learn my family’s language. When I was growing up, my sisters and I were all in Ukrainian dancing. I did it for just 13 years, but both of my sisters went on to dance with major Ukrainian dance performance groups in Edmonton after high school. Lately, I have been trying to learn the traditional designs and develop a steady hand for writing pysanky—that is, the Ukrainian easter eggs that are made by drawing with melted wax on an egg and then dunking the egg in dye. Even though I don’t speak the Ukrainian language, I am grateful that I grew up in an area where there are so many other Ukrainians who actively practiced parts of their culture, and I have felt connected to a community of people around the Edmonton area because of my heritage.

My dad is a cowboy who manages a natural gas co-op in the town he grew up in. My mom and my youngest sister are teachers, and my middle sister is a forensic biologist.

In my spare time, I love sewing, knitting, riding my bike, organizing and planning anything that anyone will let me organize or plan, learning all kinds of new things, and sharing what I know with others. I currently eke out a living as an editor, and I take on other freelance work, contract work, and odd jobs on the side.

Dave Prine, Writer, Language Enthusiast, Neophyte Polyglot

DavePrineDave Prine is a language fanatic. After studying German in college to impress a girl, he soon learned that knowing ten words in someone else’s language opened doors to discovering new cultures and making new friends. Over the years, he’s studied bits and pieces of 46 languages (Cree is #45 on the list) and collected over 300 foreign language books. He even owns DVDs with audio and subtitles in over 25 languages. (His favorite? Star Wars with Hungarian and Icelandic subtitles.) His family has accepted that he’s beyond help at this point.

Recently Dave has become obsessed with language preservation and revitalization, and he has been getting involved with various projects in this field. In addition to writing stories and working on translations for Little Cree Books, Dave is also transliterating Tunica transcripts (say that ten times fast) for the Tunica-Tulane Language Project. He’s also hoping to get involved with other language preservation efforts when he finds the time. (Navajo, Chumash, and Khmer are high on the list right now.)

Dave is also working on a few book ideas involving language learning. His first manuscript, Quick and Easy Spanish for Left-Handed Dentists Who Hate Cats, was poorly thought out and immediately scrapped. However, other ideas are in the works that will eventually see the light of day, either in print or electronic format.

Dave currently lives in Santa Barbara, California (USA) where he shamefully neglects his personal blog as well as his language blog. He hopes you can forgive him.

Jeannine “Zenith” Lillie-Eakett, Artist


Zenith jumped onboard the Little Cree Books project with abundant enthusiasm almost as soon as the website was launched. A Plains Cree artist with roots in Manitoba, Zenith is now living in Ontario, where she began learning Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe)—a language closely related to Cree. Zenith is our first artist contributor, and she is already well on her way with creating the visuals for her first book with us. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we can say that it involves crochet, and we are thrilled that she is working so hard to help share the Cree language by contributing to this project.

Zenith makes paintings, drawings, and whimsical crochet and fabric creations. She can be found working in the film industry adorning actors in costumes, in her studio covered in art supplies, sitting on her couch crocheting, or at her sewing machine; when she can’t be found, she is out riding her bike, thinking about her next art show. When she was small, she spent much of her time drawing, reading, dressing her cat in tiny clothes, and staring out the window. When she grew up, she continued to spend much of her time drawing, reading, dressing her cats in clothes (now she makes them with her sewing machine) and staring out the window (thinking about her next bike riding adventure).

She works in a studio filled with books, stacks of fabric, containers of beads, antique items she’s found at second hand stores, and handmade baskets from around the world that are overflowing with yarn. Her work is inspired by traditional Anishinabe & Nehiyawewin story telling, gypsy faerie tales, carnivals, old photos, and thick academic books on serious topics. She likes to tell funny stories that make other people laugh, talk about ideas, imagine the possibilities, and grow vegetables in her huge garden.

She has a diploma in Visual Arts from Sault College and a BFA from the University of Laurentian, where she studied painting, drawing, Anishinaabemowin, and how to write fantastic essays. She lives and works on the shore of Lake Superior—a magical land where three Great Lakes shake hands together—with her best friend and husband, Andrew, and their two cats Henry and Francis.

Check out Zenith’s work on Facebook or at the Government of Ontario’s Aboriginal Affairs page.

Laura Brady (Brady Type), Ebook Publisher

LauraBradyLaura is a Toronto-based ebook developer who has generously offered to help us develop our Little Cree Books (which are currently just PDF files) into fixed-layout ebooks with read-aloud functionality. If you’re not 100% sure what that means (we weren’t either!), it basically means that the books will be well-suited to access on e-readers like Kindles, Kobos, and iPads, but also that readers will be able to hear the text as it is highlighted on the page! We are ecstatic and deeply grateful that Laura has offered her expertise to support the development of our books in this way. We hope that the first ebooks will be available by the summer of 2013. Please check back frequently!

Check out Laura’s work at Brady Type.

Lewis Kelly, Author

LewisLewis Kelly writes, reads, and practices frowny faces. He works for a company called Story Engine.

Connect with Lewis via Twitter @LewisHKelly or LinkedIn, or check out his personal website.



Luce Hua, Artist


Luce is a psychology major at the University of Alberta, and has always been passionate about art and interested in cultural awareness. She had attended a few Pecha Kucha events and heard many great ideas and stories, but it was at the 15th event, featuring Caylie’s talk about Little Cree Books, that really inspired her to become more involved in local independent projects.

She both appreciates and creates art, working with a variety of media, traditional and digital, but her happy medium is watercolour and fine-ink. She also really enjoys creating infographics. Although she has never developed a full portfolio, she would be happy to provide some examples of her work and contribute to other projects or fulfill requests. You can contact her at:

Check out her neverending collaborative project with her partner and roommates: The PurpleDoor House