ᓂᐱᒧᐦᑌᐃᐧᐣ ᐅᒪ: ᐁᓄᐦᑌᓂᐦᑕᓀᐦᐃᔭᐁᐧᔭᐣ
nipimohtewin ōma: enohtenihtanehiyaweyān
Translation: This is my journey: I want to be a fluent Cree speaker
ᑕᓂᓯ ᓂᑐᑌᒥᑎᐠ ᐁᑲᐧ ᓂᐊᐧᐦᑯᒪᑲᓂᑎᐠ
ᐅᓂᐦᒋᑭᐢᑲᐧᐳᐃᐧᓂᐦᐠ ᐊᓱᑕᒧᐃᐧᐣ ᓂᑯᑕᐧᓯᐠ ᐅᐦᒋ ᓂᔭ
ᓂᓂᑭᐦᑲᐧᐠ Jerry Houle ᐁᑲᐧ Alma Marten ᐁᑲᐧ ᐁᑯᓯ ᒥᓇ Rose Houle ᐁᓯᐦᑲᓱᒋᐠ
tan'si nitōtem'tik ekwa niwāhkōmākan'tik
onihcikiskwapowinihk asotamowin nikotwāsik ohci niya
ninīkihkwak Jerry Houle ekwa Alma Marten ekwa ekosi mina Rose Houle esihkasōcik
Hello, greetings my friends and all my relations
my Cree name is White Wolf
I come from Saddle Lake Cree Nation on Treaty No. 6 Territory
My parents are Jerry Houle & Alma Marten & also Rose Houle, are their names
My assimilated name is Shannon Houle and my Indian Concentration Camp Label is #4620-2730-01
(Translation: my non nehiyaw spirit name is Shannon Houle & my Indian Reservation Indian Act No is 4620: Reserve ID - 2730: My Genocidal Number - 01: My birth placement in my family)
What is Language Revitalization and where does it start?
These are questions I've been asked to answer within my IYIS 560 Leadership & Implementation for Language Revitalization course at the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills.
However, the answers are not supposed to come from out there, the answers are supposed to come from within!
As I reflected on these questions, what kept crossing my mind as the answer over and over again throughout this course was, "this journey of language revitalization started even before me, before I was born, it started with my grandparents and relations, even started with my relation Chief Pakan, treaty signatory at the making of Treaty No. 6 1876...it started in my blood long before my own heart beat began to beat within my mother's womb"...it was the only valid answer I could come up with!
I was born in the fall of 1969. This was a year so many in the world will remember as the year the first man walked on the moon or the year of Woodstock (hahaha) but for my relations, my people, the nehiyawak & Dené Suline, this was the year Blue Quills Indian Residential School would finally close and the genocide of our people would stop, so we thought!
Late Stanley Redcrow was employed there at this time and his words when interviewed about the closure:
"In 1967 we had a district white school committee meeting at Lac La Biche which is about 70 miles north from here. At that time the Superintendent of Schools was Danny Daniels, he told us that Indian schools were going to be phased out." - Stanley Redcrow 1972
This was also the same year Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau would announce the famous "White Paper": Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy 1969 to abolish the Indian Act and the Indian Chiefs of Alberta would later release the more famous extensive read "Red Paper" Citizens Plus, to counteract and stop it the following year.
So much was happening the year I was born, the state of Canada also passed the 1969 Language Act to make English and French the Official Languages in Canada but the original Indigenous Languages were still being attacked and forbidden...assimilation was still happening...the so called "Indian Problem" was still a problem, according to Canada; hence the White Paper.
This is the era I was born into & a journey laid out for me to take on, a responsibility I would carry for my ancestors into the future...it is my journey, it's my ancestor's journey, it's my future generation's journey...
I grew up with the stories of the closure of Blue Quills Indian Residential School and the long sit in of our people to reclaim the RIGHT TO EDUCATE THEIR CHILDREN AGAIN, OUR WAY. I grew up hearing the stories of my late capan (great grandfather) Jonas Cardinal standing on the steps of the BQ school, as others were losing hope, and helping them find that hope again...
"In a story about Mr. Jonas Cardinal, Mike Steinhauer reflects back to the time when this
Capan Late Jonas Cardinal
notable Elder of Saddle Lake arrived at Blue Quills to assess the situation for himself. There was friction and controversy about the take-over growing from within the assembly that stemmed from some people’s fears of failure. In a heart moving address delivered at the sit-in when protestors were being harassed by internal dissenters, Mr. Cardinal captured the attention of all present when he asked these jarring questions. “In the past 40 years, since the department has had control over our schooling, how many of us completed grade 12? If you have stand up.” No one stood up. He went on to enquire, “How many of us completed grade 8? Let’s stand up!” One person sheepishly arose from his chair. “How many of us completed grade 6?” A handful of people stood up. Then he said, “Look around. We can’t do any worse by taking over this school! We need graduates who will return to our reserves to teach our people so that we can become strong as nations.” His speech made a resonating impact which caused the people in the room to unite and stand together to assert their responsibility to determine the educational destinies of their own children and grandchildren.
After 21 days of the sit-in, a telegram was received from Minister Jean Chretien for representatives to meet with him on Parliament Hill..." - BQ Commemoration Edition, Pg 3
As I write this, a memory crosses my mind, and it's of my late capan Jonas holding me on his lap, I am not even 6 months, but I see him looking down at me talking to others and he is bouncing me, even then, I'm listening and learning...all I know was that feeling of safety, comfort, and pride as I remember and even after he passed away shortly after & the opening of the school in 1971, his daughter Mrs. Roseanna Houle (nohkom - my late grandmother) became one of the first Cree Teachers of the first Indian owned and operated school in Canada - Blue Quills Schools as Mr. Stanley Redcrow further discusses in an interview about implementing the Cree Language:
"Sask. Indian: Did you make any changes as far as the curriculum went and the teaching of Indian Culture?
Mr. Redcrow: Yes we made a lot of changes. There was no Indian language taught at this school. Right away I told the people to start teaching the cree language, reading and writing and also different ways of doing things to improve the Indian situation that is say, making moccasins, and bead work and all kinds of things like that. They are doing that now and the children are very happy.
Sask. Indian: I understand you have a cree teacher here, Mrs. Roseanna Houle, from nearby Saddle Lake Reserve. Perhaps you can tell us a little bit about her class and how she teaches the children.
Mr. Redcrow: She started with the alphabets and it took her a little while before she could make the kids understand..."
She taught the Syllabics and through this she taught the language but also shared the stories behind the language...about who we are and were we come from.
nohkompan (late grandmother) taught at Blue Quills from 1971 - 1979 until she passed away. In all those years teaching at the school, she would never tire of teaching nehiyawewin. After a long day at school teaching my relations and others, she would come home to us, osisimak (her grandchildren) and teach us as she beaded, made moccasins, or cooked bannock. She would tell us prophesies past and to be, she would tell us of Creation for all, of how we come from the land, we are the land...all this she would tell us in nehiyawewin (Cree language), including the journey of our people to reclaim their rights in teaching us, their future!
"You only have to look at a child and you will find something to love in that child, even if at first you think the child a rascal. The children know what you think of them. From there on, you teach from the heart and that is the only way to teach"
After 1979, language loss would become a reality for me, after the loss of nohkom because after that, no one spoke to me in nehiyawewin. I asked my dad years later why he never taught me, he said because he didn't want me to have a hard time in the world but he was coming from years of second generation Indian Residential School indoctrination and trauma. He didn't know and my mother only spoke english but understood some nehiyawewin and Dené Suline. As time passed, my language identity would be put to sleep and in a bad long dream.
|Celebrating 1876 Treaty No. 6|
This was when my journey that started on a clean clear path with nohkom teaching us, then ended up in the trenches of the side ditches in darkness during my addictions, and as I walked out of onto the path again in my healing, I would reclaim my ancestral responsibilities...
This time, I had a 3 year old child in tow but my mind, my spirit, my heart, and my body were clean enough to embrace them all again, the plans laid out for me long before I was born.
Over the next course of 28 years of living, learning, searching for my identity, I would eventually finish a teaching degree from the University of Alberta: Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP), specializing in Indigenous Education Implementation, meaning I would learn how to use our Indigenous Teachings and implement in the school curriculum. Again, I hoped to revitalize our language and culture...decolonize! However, I would find this wasn't enough!
During my first year of teaching at an on reserve school, the Idle No More Movement began November 10th, 2012, and I attended their first Alberta Teach In on December 2, 2012 with Sylvia McAdam (co-founder), Pam Palmater, Janice Makokis, and Tanya Kappo. It was only out of curiosity that I attended and again, my spirit was awakened...this time with a fierce drive that would waken not only my spirit but the blood of my ancestors that flowed through my whole being...
This is where that spark in my blood would become a huge flame of protecting and defending our
language and culture, who we are as Indigenous peoples... I would launch the original Idle No More website (now there is a team of volunteers) to assist in protecting our people, the land, the water and all from Canada's extermination of our people through policies, laws, legislations etc...
At the time, I was teaching and the school, I was employed, fully supported by campaign to assist Idle No More and my grade 4 students were fully involved, they learned about the Making of Treaty No. 6, the Indian Residential Schools, and I also tried my best, even though I wasn't fluent, to use syllabics in all I did...my students had to write the date in syllabics daily etc..and we practiced broken Cree hahaha
As much as I was helping bring back the language in the classroom, Idle No More opened the doors for me to try to make more change. In 2013, I was approached to run for council and as I put my faith in the Creator, I decided to run for Chief and Council on my reserve because I wanted to get in those rooms that make change. I knew rallies, walks, protests, etc..were helping make change but change also had to happen in those doors the politicians were in, Federally and Provincially. I ran and I was elected as a Band Councillor for a three (3) year term from June 2013 - June 2016.
This was also a time when Indigenous Education was under attack again and the Federal Government accepted a bill by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada call Bill C-33 that would infringe on our rights towards Language Self Determination and Sovereignty. This bill was one of many bills Idle No More would identify as part of the Harper Gov'ts Termination Policy and once again, many Chiefs, Indigenous Peoples stood against it, especially the people within Treaty No. 6 Territory by fighting to previously approvednAlberta Education memorandum of Understanding . More rallies and protests erupted again to protect the future of our children and the right to continue educating our children, our way:
October 7, 2013 Idle No More National Day of Action:
- Idle No More Event Page: IDLE NO MORE: EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN OUR WAY ~ TURTLE LODGE TREATY & TREATY # 6
- Facebook Event Page: IDLE NO MORE: Educating Our Children Our Way ~ Turtle Lodge Treaty & Treaty # 6
|Burning the Bill C-33 FNEA, AB Education MOU & Rising up Treaty No. 6|
As time went by we stood strong and as it looked like the Bill C-33 First Nations Education Act was going through parliament, it passed second reading but we still fought it nationally and even at home by continually rejecting the Alberta Education Memorandum of Understanding.
Then a surprise announcement from the Prime Minister's office, Steven Harper, AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, and INAC Minister Valcourt was going to happen in Kainai Nation on Treaty No. 7 Territory. Chiefs, the people, were all in the dark, February 7, 2014 and I had been an elected band councillor for 8 months.
I was then assigned to attend, on behalf of our nation of onihcikiskwapowin (Saddle Lake Cree Nation) as proxy Chief. Here is my account of the event:
Personal Reaction by Shannon Houle to Feb 7 2014 Harper Speech on First Nations Education
"My heart and my mind said I needed to speak up for our future generations"
This is only my personal reflection from my perspective of my experience while attending the event as Chief proxy for Saddle Lake Cree Nation.
I felt it important to record this as a personal journal or record.
Recorded: February 9, 2014
Shortly after the announcement, AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo resigned, Idle No More grassroots people started the Blue Dot Campaign, & on May 2014, the AFN Chiefs reject the bill and Ottawa is forced to kill the education bill but is it really dead?
We need to be diligent and careful because this month, Canada's newest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the son of late PM Pierre Trudeau, who introduced the 1969 White Paper, just announced a proposed Indigenous Language Act...is this a repeat and regurgitation of Bill C-33 or will this be a real Language Act with Indigenous Self Determination & Sovereignty???
At the end of the day, leaders and the people need to maintain protecting and defending who we are and our language is KEY, it is key to who we are, the laws, our education system, our justice, our social structures, all who we are is embedded in our language.
Even though, I was one (1) speck with so many others, in the whole story of defending, protecting, and journeying to maintain the right to revitalize our language, I also REMEMBERED, it had to start with me like I stated in the beginning...
... the answers are not supposed to come from out there, the answers are supposed to come from within!
..."this journey of language revitalization started even before me, before I was born, it started with my grandparents and relations, even started with my relation Chief Pakan, treaty signatory at the making of Treaty No. 6 1876...it started in my blood long before my own heart beat began to beat within my mother's womb"...
This is why I returned to the place my ancestors fought so hard to reclaim the right to educate their future, our way...therefore, I am back in school, at UNBQ learning and honing my skills to continue protecting and revitalizing nehiyawewin as a Language Learner and Master's student in Indigenous Languages.
UNBQ Language Concert...we are practicing and learning
The Future they talked about in 1969, is us...we need to continue this journey...resurgence of US ~ UNITY!
ᐁᓄᐦᑌᓀᐦᐃᔭᐁᐧᔭᐣ ᐁᑲᐧ ᐁᓄᐦᑌᑭᐢᑭᓄᐦᐊᒪᐊᐧᑭᐠ ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐁᐧᐃᐧᐣ ᓂᑕᐊᐧᓯᒥᓴᐠ ᓄᓯᓯᒪᐠ ᐁᑲᐧ ᓂᑕᓂᐢᑯᑕᐸᓇᐠ ᐸᐱᒪᑎᓯᔭᓂ
enohtenehiyaweyan ekwa enohtekiskinohamawakik nehiyawewin nitawasimisak nosisimak ekwa nitāniskotāpānak papimatisiyani
I want to learn to speak Cree and I want to teach my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren if I am still in this world
|I do all this for them, nosisimak (my grandchildren) & the ones not born yet|
This is OUR journey... it's OUR ancestor's journey, it's OUR future generation's journey!
|This is my hopes and dreams for my nation|
- 1971-2001: Blue Quills 30th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
- Rabble: The White Paper 1969
- Idle No More:
- INAC: 1969 White Paper
- Red & White Paper 1969-1970
- Native Awakening: Alberta Indians Occupy a rural residential school
- Previous Related Posts:
- FNCFNEA Bill C-33:
- Language Learning Conference
- Language Revitalization: A Fulfilling Journey of Unity Shared from New Zealand