• Angela Mouly

Cree Language Display At Lakeland College


The Cree Language Display while set up in Vermilion. Photo Angela Mouly

As part of Truth & Reconciliation Week, Lakeland College hosted a Cree language display at both campuses.

“We are committed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Providing opportunities for our campus community to learn more about Indigenous languages, culture and community is a priority for Lakeland,” said Lakeland College president and CEO, Dr. Alice Wainwright-Stewart.

According to the display created by the Canadian Language Museum, more people speak Cree than any other Canadian aboriginal language. They state that in 2011, 100,355 Canadians reported a Cree dialect as their mother tongue.

Visitors had the opportunity to listen to different dialects and read different teaching materials in both English and Cree. The exhibit showed nine dialects across Canada including Plains Cree, Woods Cree, Swampy Cree, Moose Cree, East Cree, Atikamekw, Western Innu, Eastern Innu, and Naskapi. These groups traditionally inhabited from the edge of the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Atlantic coast.

Cree is part of the Algonquin language family, and Statistics Canada reports approximately 70 Indigenous languages broken down into 12 language families. The display shared that Nêhiyawêwin means Plains Cree while Nîhithawîwin means Woods Cree.

Traditionally information passed through generations orally, and the display noted that the first book printed in Canada was written in Cree using the Roman alphabet in 1767. Using this method, symbols representing different syllables can be rotated to determine which vowel they are using in the written form, and additional accents can be written above to determine long or short vowels.

Even though it is one of the more secure aboriginal languages, the display stated that fewer people are using Cree on a daily basis and fewer children are learning Cree as their first language. It also said new technologies pose a challenge for Indigenous languages as different dialects each create their own version.

Another display hosted at both campuses was called ‘Beyond Words: Dictionaries and Indigenous Language.’ Throughout Truth and Reconciliation Week (September 26-29), Lakeland College will also be hosting Medicine Walks at both campuses led by Knowledge Keeper Jazmyn Gartner, a Blanket Exercise in Vermilion, and ‘The Education is Our New Buffalo ‘event in Lloydminster.

“Acknowledging and learning from our shared history, as well as honouring survivors of residential schools and their families is an important part of our role as an educational institution and an ally to Indigenous Peoples. Together, we can create a stronger sense of belonging and inclusiveness, and better support our students and staff,” says Wainwright-Stewart. “With the recent tragedy at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon, we know how important being of service is to each other. We’ve ensured supports are in place to assist those students and staff affected.”

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