In the early nineteen hundreds, prior to the residential school era, the Cree language was in a good state of vocalisation. When the residential school era came into affect, children were taken away from their families and placed in schools many miles away from their homes. Cree children were forbidden to speak their language and severely punished if they did. Psychologically, the children placed in residential schools were brainwashed into thinking that their First Nation culture and language were evil. Many residential school students went back to their home reserves not wanting any part of their First Nation culture or language. The residential school staff made the children’s lives quite difficult. Students were ashamed to speak their language or felt ashamed to hear it spoken. A language census survey was distributed to all the bands in Saskatchewan. Many bands completed the survey, some have yet to complete it, while others did not participate at all. At this time the survey is inconclusive.
In the Qu’Appelle areas, the language is seldom heard or spoken. In the central part of Saskatchewan, the language is spoken within a limited vocabulary. In the Meadow Lake area, the language is articulated a bit more than what is heard in central Saskatchewan. Within the Prince Albert area, the language is heard on a regular basis. The language is spoken more fluently in the north-eastern part of Saskatchewan in areas such as the Lac La Ronge and Creighton localities.
Today, First Nation people believe that language is their identity and it is what keeps the culture strong. When there is no First Nation language, there is no First Nation culture. Language is the lifeblood that feeds the striving identity of First Nation people. Once the language is lost, there is no hope of retrieving it. The plain and simple reality is that there is no motherland where First Nation people can go to retrace and relearn their language, for this is our motherland. The French language in Canada is quite prominent. If the French language was to be lost in Canada, the language speakers could pick it back up from the motherland of the French language. If the Ukrainian language was forgotten here in Canada, the Ukrainian language would still exist in the motherland of the Ukraine. The same cannot be said of the Bella Bella in British Columbia, or the Beothuk language in Newfoundland, or any First Nation language in Canada.
Points of Interest
Birds of Prey Program
SICC Elders Council
SICC Board of Governors
ABORIGINAL LANGUAGES INITIATIVE
Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre
305 - 2555 Grasswood Road East
Saskatoon SK S7T 0K1