I like to do my research on the Internet. I guess I have always been a geek when it comes to computers. The Internet is a vast wealth of knowledge for me as a writer. I can find just about anything on any topic.

I have heard it said that the Internet is a mile wide and an inch deep but I think this saying is a little outdated. Over the past 10 years I have seen the Internet gain a real depth with information databases on every facet of life on the planet Earth.

In some recent researching, I made an interesting discovery that has to do with my own people – the James Bay Cree. Google has branched out into many different areas. One of these branches has led to the creation of Google Books. This service is not without controversy. Vast Google teams are copying and scanning mountains of books, digitizing them and making them available on the Internet at Google Books. The publishing industry and some authors are questioning their right to do this as no benefits are passed on to the writers. Google’s defence is that they are copying and making available books that are out-of-print and unavailable to the general public for the most part.

I have to admit, I was happy to run into a couple of very obscure historical documents that have to do with the James Bay Cree. The Cree language has been passed down from the dawn of time by my people through word-of-mouth only. My ancestors did not write anything down and instead the culture was about storytelling. Information through these stories survived and was passed down through the centuries. It was not until the coming of the Christian missionaries that my language was developed into a written form which is referred to as syllabics. Many people think that these syllabics look like Egyptian hieroglyphs. In fact, the reason this written language was produced by the missionaries was to spread Christianity by translating the Bible into Cree, so that my people would be converted.

Interestingly, this work by missionaries actually preserved the original Cree language and has served as a basis for a modern-day movement of my people back to their own beliefs, culture and traditions. Because the language of syllabics was created, my people have a better knowledge of their history and what the original language was all about.

My discovery at Google Books, included “A Grammar Of The Cree Language” by the Rt. Rev. J. Horden, Doctor of Divinity (DD). Horden, who was a Bishop of Moosonee, wrote his book in 1881. In the preface he mentions that a previous Cree grammar book had been written by Jos Howse, who had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In addition, he also mentions an English Cree dictionary that was compiled around the same time by the Rev E.A Watkins. This dictionary also appears in Google Books. Horden also suggested “Lectures On The Grammatical Construction Of The Cree Language” by a Dr. Hunter.

I was really excited to find this book with easy access as it appeared right before my eyes on the computer screen. I downloaded it so that I could preserve a copy of it on my hard drive. I could tell by reading the preface and how the book was put together that Horden was probably fluent in the Cree language. It was also clear to me that he was well educated and a scholar.

My second discovery on Google Books was an ancient copy of “The New Testament – Translated Into The Cree Language”, also by Horden. In was printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1876. As I did my best to read through the syllabic version of this Bible, I could see that it had been written in the Moosonee southern James Bay dialect of Cree.

There is a subtle difference between the Cree language of Moosonee and area as compared to my home of Attawapiskat. Let me give you an example. The word for people is pronounced “Ininew” in Attawapiskat and in the Bible copy I read it was written as “Ililew”. It is common to find the exchange of the “n” sound for the “l” sound in the Moosonee dialect. This is merely one difference in the dialects.

I suggest that anyone wanting to see the original Cree language in an early documented form of syllabics should go to Google Books and have a look at these two documents. It excites me that I can find a hidden piece of Cree history buried but still accessible in what has become the depth of the Internet. To find these books, go to Google Books and do a search for “Cree language”. You might have to search the listings that appear to find these books, but that to me is part of the fun. Meegwetch, Ookoo Meeseenahehkan inineewak (Thanks to these authors).