What is Possible in Community? Reflecting on Harvest Days at Sturgeon Lake First Nation

Elder Willie Ermine from Sturgeon Lake First Nation shares about the process of community development and how possibilities like Harvest Days come to fruition in his community.

Elder and ceremonialist, Willie Ermine, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation is the Traditional Health Coordinator at the Lloyd Johnson Memorial Healing Lodge. It is through the Elder’s Council and the work of the Healing Lodge that brings Sturgeon Lake community members together. Ermine discusses the history of his community and shares about the uniqueness of community members. The people are special and it is with the gifts of the people that will determine what is possible. By extracting the memory of the community he hopes that community members will see themselves in the history and will find strength in that knowledge.

Case Study: Sturgeon Lake Traditional Health Program


Harvest Days at Sturgeon Lake First Nation

Sturgeon Lake First Nation community members reflecting on Harvest Days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harvest Days is an example of what is possible – community members came together at the Healing Lodge, over the course of a week, and between young and old, they hunted, fished, picked berries, processed food, prepared medicines and drank pandemic immunity. Their efforts to support their community during a pandemic and their commitment to teaching the youth about land-based learning, community, and traditional health is shown in their food security preparations.

*Disclaimer: This video deals wth the processing of deer, moose, and fish for preservation and has graphic content. 

Cree Language Revitalization and Reclamation

Revitalizing the Cree language, one experience at a time.

Cree scholar, Belinda Daniels, began her nēhiyawēwin language journey so that her children would be able to speak Cree and communicate with their grandparents. She believed that if she wants this for her children then there must be many others who want this for their children too. On her journey of learning Cree and finding Cree language teaching methods she decided to create the nêhiyawak Summer Language Experience. Daniels’ education, both from Western institutions and teachings from her community have prepared her for this life’s work. She hopes that when people learn the Cree language they will understand how the language comes from the land and that the language is connected to life in this place.


  • Herman, C., Daniels, B., Lewis, K., & Koole, M. (in review). Awakening sleeping languages in Saskatchewan with culturally appropriate curricula and technology. In H. Crompton and J. Traxler (Eds.) Critical Mobile Pedagogy: Cases of Inclusion, Development, and Empowerment. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Daniels, B., & Sterzuk, A, Turner, P., Cook, W., Thunder, D., & Morin, R. (in press). e ka pimohteyahk nikanehk ote nikan: nehiyawewin (cree language): Revitalization and Indigenous knowledge (re) generation – An ethics of southern research. In K. Heugh, C. Stround, P. De Costa & K. Taylor-Leech (Eds.). A sociolinguists of the South. Routledge

The Story of wesakecāk and sihkos

This is the story of how the weasel was able to change the colour of its pelt.

Simon Bird is the Director of Education for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and he shares his wealth of knowledge teaching Cree. At the Regina Elders Gathering held in February 2020, Bird encouraged audience members to engage in his Cree Bingo game. During the game he teaches Cree words and will often tell stories. This time, Bird shared the story of how the weasel’s pelt changes colour in different seasons.

Empowering Young Men – The Warrior’s Club at Sturgeon Lake Central School

The Warrior’s Club is a land-based education group that meets bi-monthly to learn experientially about the land. 

Tanya McCallum, is one of the land-based instructors at Sturgeon Lake Central School who help leads a Warrior’s Club for Indigenous male youth ages 11-15, she along with Lionel McKenzie. The Warrior’s Club educates youth and encourages them to develop a relationship with the land. Between the skills that they develop and the connections they make, the activities they engage in are meant to empower the next generation of men. The Club meets twice a month and engages in the following activities: camping, snaring, harvesting deadfall from the bush and chopping the wood, fire keeping, fishing, ice fishing, kayaking, canoeing, history lessons, and Cree language instruction.

Recently, the boys received chainsaw and axe safety lessons prior to using the equipment. After that, they were able to harvest the deadfall from the bush, chop the wood, and deliver the chopped wood to Elders and families in the community who were struggling financially. The boys are eager to provide this service to their community and the community members value the youth for their efforts. 

This program has been made possible since 2017 due to the collaboration between Belinda Daniels and her uncle Velmer Ermine, who write up the grants and reports for and through Jordan’s Principle. This is a community collaboration, a ‘grassroots’ initiative between all who all support the program and the youth involved, and a special gratitude to the numerous guest speakers who enrich this program throughout all of the years.

Mini Cree Language Lesson by Doreen Oakes

Doreen Oakes offers a mini language lesson for audience members at the Regina Elders Gathering.

Doreen Oakes was a Cree language educator at the First Nations University of Canada in the Department of Indigenous Languages, Arts, and Cultures until June 30th, 2016. In February 2020, at the Regina Elders Gathering, Oakes shared a brief Cree language lesson in this video clip. Oakes invites the audience to introduce themselves by saying hello, my name is and I am from, in Cree. For example, tânisi Doreen Oakes niya Nekaneet First Nation nitocin. Watch the clip for correct pronunciation!

A Case Study and an Assessment Framework for Land-Based Learning

Cree immersion and culture camps offer participants a culturally responsive education.

Founder of kâniyâsihk Culture Camps and initiator of the Cree Immersion School at Ministikwin Lake Cree Nation, Kevin Lewis is an Indigenous academic who has brought what he has learned about educating back to his community. Lewis is committed to land-based learning and Cree education and hopes to ensure his programs provide people, young and old, with a culturally responsive education. In order to evaluate these programs, he enlisted a colleague as an external reviewer who has experience establishing Maori schools and language centres in New Zealand. By evaluating both the school and the culture camps Lewis is learning about what students and parents are feeling, wanting, and thinking about these programs, which has informed how the program changes and adapts over time. The case study is considered a snapshot of the programs at a particular moment in time, and when the case study is combined with the Structured Assessments Framework for Land-Based Learning at kâniyâsihk Culture Camps, it becomes a model for evaluating such programs.

Sacred Stories and Sacred Songs by Joseph Naytowhow

Guest speaker, Joseph Naytowhow conveys the importance of learning and sharing language through story and song. 

At the Saskatoon Elders Gathering in January 2020, Joseph Naytowhow shared stories and songs with the accompaniament of the drum. Naytowhow is a singer, songwriter, storyteller, voice and stage film actor, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation. He was invited to share Cree stories and songs at the Saskatoon Elder’s Gathering, hosted by First Nations University of Canada. Naytowhow beautifully weaves stories from his experiences with songs that he has written or has come to know and, in doing so, leads participants in singing and chanting along in Cree. He reminds us that, “we are from the Earth, and the land is our mother.”

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.


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.