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Making Cree Resources and Traditional Stories Accessible

Solomon Ratt is an educator who has dedicated his life to teaching, while also creating and translating resources into Cree.

Solomon Ratt is an Associate Professor of Indigenous Languages at First Nations University of Canada. Ratt has been teaching Cree and creating Cree language learning and teaching resources since the 1970’s. He says, growing up there was no access to Indigenous literature and now, because of some key players like Freda Ahenikew and the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC), there has been significant progress in writing both traditional stories and other stories in Cree. Despite what some people say about writing and sharing traditional Cree stories in written form, Ratt believes in order for the language to survive we need to be able to write our stories in our languages so that they are available for the next generation. More and more of our people are isolated without a community of mentors who will teach us the language – writing it and creating ways online for people to access it is crucial to its survival and the survival of our cultures. Ratt suggests a number of resources that are effective in language learning and most of them are accessible through SICC.

Resources: 

SayITFirst Books

Cree Literacy Network

Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre

Simplifying Cree Language Lessons by Focusing on One Word

Cree words are packed with meaning and can be used as an entire language lesson.

Simon Bird is the Director of Education for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and he shares his wealth of knowledge teaching Cree. He says, there are people in our communities who want to teach Cree and there are many more who want to learn it. He describes that you can teach an entire language lesson with one Cree word. For example, the word mistatim or misatim means big dog and refers to a horse. The concept of big dog exists within other Indigenous languages (Lakota, Dakota, Ojibway, Saulteaux, etc.) which shows how the horse was introduced to Indigenous people, and that dogs were part of their lives before horses came along. This language lesson brings in elements of history of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships, as well as, transportation and culture of peoples. In his discussion he gives an overview of a number of other Cree words that can be used in language lessons. Bird is a leader in his community and believes that if we study the language you will realize its significance and the roots it has in our culture and society – you will begin to appreciate who we are as people.

Resources: 

Manitoba First Nations School System

Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS) has been empowered to engage in Indigenous led education within the province.

Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS) has been empowered to engage in Indigenous led education within the province.

Bringing nēhiyawēwin Home

Learning nēhiyawēwin through language acquisition methods that have informed the success of Bringing nēhiyawēwin Home, a program designed by Belinda Daniels and offered through READ Saskatoon. 

Belinda Daniels, onikanew (she who leads), runs a program through READ Saskatoon called, Bringing nēhiyawēwin Home. The program was born from the idea of learning language in a natural setting by enjoying food at the kitchen table, intergenerationally, with family members. The nēhiyawēwin (Cree) language classes are offered to anyone who wants to learn nēhiyawēwin in Saskatoon and encourages learners of all ages.

Language learners come to the class in a good way by introducing and positioning themselves in the community. The group offers tobacco to the language spirit and follows protocol by saying a prayer and smudging at the beginning of class. By learning Cree around the kitchen table, learners are able to learn food terminology in a coincidental way. Some terms and vocabulary include learning how to ask and say: Are you hungry?; I am hungry; What is this?; this is good; I would like some more; soup, bannock, pop, juice, milk, salad, pizza, etc.

In the classes, Daniels employs three language learning methods which are the direct method, task-based learning, and accelerated second language acquisition. Daniels hopes that her students become intrinsically motivated to bring language home and pass it on to the next generation of nēhiyawēwin language learners. By reclaiming language we work to restore identity, nationhood, and make gains towards sovereignty and self-determination.

Language Retention a Priority for Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre

Since 1972, SICC has been protecting, preserving, and promoting First Nations languages.

Priscilla St. John is the Education and Language Specialist for the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Center (SICC). As the first Indigenous controlled education institution serving Saskatchewan, SICC offers opportunities for cultural revitalization for the following First Nations: Plains Cree, Swampy Cree, Woodlands Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakota and Lakota. First Nations Elders met to discuss the importance of Indigenous language acquisition and developed outcomes that, combined with the provincially mandated curriculum, create the language based curriculum that SICC promotes. St. John explains, First Nations languages start with our ways of knowing, our stories, our ancestors, our laws, our protocols, and are guided by Elders, which are all connected to the Creator. SICC provides First Nations with educational resources and language workshops that derive from their land based and sacred language curricula. These opportunities and resources are available to anyone who is interested in language revitalization.

Language is Our Spirituality – Our Way of Life

Elder Coordinator and Cree Language Interpreter, Clarence Whitstone speaks on the importance of the Cree Language.

The First Nations University of Canada’s Elder’s Council Coordinator and Cree Language Interpreter, Clarence Whitstone, of the Onion Lake Cree Nation, shares information on the work he does on educating the public about Indigenous topics such as: the Frog Lake Massacre, treaties, residential schools, and languages from the First Nations perspective. Whitstone has over twelve years of proven translation services experience. Whitstone maintains that language and culture can’t be separated and must be preserved for our future generations. First Nations language must be used in all of our ceremonies, cultures and traditions. Language is our spirituality – our way of life.

PWK High School Winter Camp

PWK Highschool in Fort Smith holds an annual winter expedition where students learn traditional trapping, fishing, and hunting in a safe, continuous manner. The facilitators are local Elders and knowledge keepers.

PWK Highschool in Fort Smith holds an annual winter expedition where students learn traditional trapping, fishing, and hunting in a safe, continuous manner. The facilitators are local Elders and knowledge keepers.

Cree and Ojibwe Bilingual Program

The Winnipeg School Division is proud to initiate bilingual Cree language and Ojibwe language programs exclusively at Isaac Brock School.

The Winnipeg School Division is proud to initiate bilingual Cree language and Ojibwe language programs exclusively at Isaac Brock School.
The 2016 school year welcomed students in Kindergarten, while the 2018-19 school year will have program entry points​ in Kindergarten​ to Grade 2.
The Cree and Ojibwe Programs will center around ancestral teachings of the Grandmother Moon and the thirteen moons she carries. The programs have a land-based component as this is an important part of language learning. Culturally, there is a strong connection to the land and all the life it encompasses. In the ​Kindergarten Program, students will be fully immersed in the Cree or Ojibwe language. The Grade 1 and 2 program will be bilingual with 50% of instruction in Cree or Ojibwe and 50% in English.

Master-Apprentice Indigenous language revitalization in Michif and Other Indigenous Languages

Prairies to Woodlands Indigenous Language Revitalization Circle Master-Apprentice Indigenous language revitalization aims to build the capacity of fluent-speaking Elders and others (“masters”) and committed learners (“apprentices”) to work as language learning teams in hopes of keeping their endangered ancestral languages alive. P2WILRC, a grassroots all-volunteer community group based in the Parkland, was given a grant […]

Prairies to Woodlands Indigenous Language Revitalization Circle Master-Apprentice Indigenous language revitalization aims to build the capacity of fluent-speaking Elders and others (“masters”) and committed learners (“apprentices”) to work as language learning teams in hopes of keeping their endangered ancestral languages alive. P2WILRC, a grassroots all-volunteer community group based in the Parkland, was given a grant from Canadian Heritage’s Aboriginal Language Initiative to run the MAP pilot project. At the time of this interview, there are five funded Master-Apprentice Program (MAP) teams—three Michif, one Swampy Cree, and one Ojibwe who will work for upwards of 300 hours together by March 31, 2019.

Neecheewam Inc. – Whole Person Learning

Cheyenne Chartrand, Spiritual Care Provider at Neecheewam Inc., explains Neecheewam’s approach to education.

Neecheewam Inc. goes beyond pedagogical programs in an effort to redefine concepts of treatment, emphasizing cohort and peer education through an “extended family” that results in whole person learning. Whole person learning requires moving beyond the text book to include academic, professional, emotional, and spiritual growth.