The Cree School Board today welcomed 168 educators to its second annual language and culture engagement session in Wemindji.
The iiyiyiu/iinuu ayimuuwimn and iituwin Engagement Session 2019 is a chance for all classroom educators to experience hands-on learning, to share best practices, and to kindle enthusiasm for Cree culture and language.
In his opening remarks to the delegates, Grand Chief Abel Bosum spoke about the recently passed first Cree Language Act which he described as a "bold step forward."
The bill, An Act respecting the Cree language of Eeyou Istchee, passed unanimously into law at the September 17, 2019 meeting of the Cree Nation Government.
CSB Chairperson Sarah Pash and Director General Abraham Jolly also welcomed the delegates, impressing on them the important role they fulfill not just within the Cree School Board but in the Cree Nation as a whole.
"There’s no better timing for us to have our Cree Language Act," Jolly said. "It is a firm and strong foundation for us to build upon."
a solid, credible Cree education system
Updated September 18, 2019
Abraham Bearskin spoke to the group Wednesday morning about the importance of the Cree identity, helping to define the role of the Rites of Passage in creating a full Cree person.
Thursday morning, CSB Director General Abraham Jolly outlined the four major priorities for the Board in relation to creating a "solid, credible Cree education system."
He said the recommendations of the working group that focused on these questions offered specific ways in which Cree youth could be successful in both Mandeow (western) knowledge systems through the Quebec Education Act and with their unique and significant Nishiyuu education.
"I call it a dual mission. We want to be successful on the left side and we want to be successful on the right side," he said.
Jolly said the new Cree Language Act brings together the Cree Nation and the Cree School Board and other entities toward the same mission.
Invited guests along with the delegates and organizers celebrated their learning, sharing and growth - and the retirement of a special member of the Cree School Board culture and language team - with a feast Thursday evening. Coordinator of Cree Programs, Lucy Shem, had been with the Board for 41 years, beginning her career as a substitute teacher's aide before the Cree School Board was even formed.
The feast featured a wide array of traditional food including sturgeon, walleye, beaver (boiled and roasted), bear, goose, moose, caribou, turkey, tea biscuits and jam, boudin, cold salads, and pie. Heart of the Land drummers entertained the group with an honour song as well as other numbers, and young fiddle dancers capped off the night of celebration.
LANGUAGE, HERITAGE ARE OUR RIGHT
CSB Chairperson Dr. Sarah Pash spoke Friday about the right to heritage and language, using articles from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the new Cree Language Act.
"We need to be daring; we need to be bold." - Dr. Sarah Pash
"We'll be undertaking a nation-wide project to understand the state of language in the Cree Nation," she said. "We'll have hard data, firm results, to understand the language health of our young people. I believe this is information we won't be able to ignore."
Pash spoke about the importance of increasing participation in the teacher training program, and promoting teachers of the Cree language.
"We need to be daring; we need to be bold," she added. Together we can make this happen. There is support coming from all over our nation. The new Cree Language Act shows that we as a nation have taken charge of the future of our language. We are not victims here. We are strong, we are empowered. We use the tools that we have such as our agreements to put in place what we want for our future. Cree language and culture are part of this. The language and the culture is our future."
FORMER FORT GEORGE CHIEF SPEAKS
Robert Kanatewat, former Fort George chief and negotiator and signatory of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), addressed a full house of delegates on the afternoon of the last day of the iyiyiu/iinuu ayimuuwimn and iituwin Engagement Session 2019.
"Culture is so important in the Cree Nation. We have something for our young people to hold on to and pass on to their younger generation," he said. "The Cree Nation is strong and healthy as far as I can see, and I don't see us going backward."
More to come