Although most historical accounts name James Evans as the inventor of the syllabic system, Cree oral history relates an indigenous syllabic script. According to one traditional account, a Cree elder named Calling Badger (also Badger Bull or Mistanaskowew), born around 1830, was on his way to a sacred meeting when he struck by a bright light, out of which he heard a voice calling his name. Soon afterwards, Calling Badger became ill, and apparently died. However, as the people were preparing to bury him some days later, they discovered that rigor mortis had not set in as it normally would have, so they allowed the body to remain for one more night. The next day, Calling Badger awoke and related to the people that he had gone to the spirit world, where he had been given a set of symbols with which the Cree people could write down their language.
At the same time, a second Cree elder living on the opposite side of the country was also given knowledge of the syllabic system. Knowledge of the script spread from these two elders amongst all the Cree peoples.
According to Cree oral history, when the missionaries discovered that the native people had a writing system, they stole the birch barks on which it was written, changed some of the letters, and claimed they had invented it.
Notable supporters of this account from outside the Cree community include the anthropologist Verne Dusenberry.
Winona Stevenson, 'Calling Badger and the Symbols of the Spirit Language: The Cree Origins of the Syllabic System', oral history forum d'histoire orale, 19/20 (1999-2000), 19-24