The four First Nations of the Maskwacis Cree, the Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana Cree Nation have decided to declare Cree as the official language of the reserve and that they would sign the relevant declaration on Tuesday, June 21.
A press release from the Maskwacis Cultural College (MCC) said the meeting of the four chiefs and council members of all four bands held on Wednesday, May 4 at the Peter Bull Memorial Recreation Centre had adopted the Maskwacîs Nžhîyawžwin Declaration that proclaims the official language of Maskwacîs is Nžhîyawžwin (Cree).
During the meeting Jerry Saddleback, director of cultural studies at the MCC conducted a presentation entirely in Cree language.
The press release quoted Samson Chief Kurt Buffalo as stating “We will make this declaration for our peoples but I want it to go beyond our community. I will call upon the provincial government to recognize our language as one of the official languages for this region, it can be done since the NWT passed legislation recognizing the Indigenous languages in their territory as official languages.”
Chief Irvin Bull of Louis Bull Nation said “We do not need to ask permission, we have that authority to enact what is best for our peoples and our nations but if government both provincial and federal are serious about renewed relationships with the Indigenous peoples of this country, then they must recognize the basis of our culture, our language.”
Montana Band chief Darrell Strongman and Ermineskin Nation Chief Randy Ermineskin also made statements in support of the decision.
Bobbi Herrera, Director of College Advancement at MCC said in an interview the decision was a declaration of the claim for the right to speak their own language by Cree nations on their own land.
“Our language is the basis of our culture and this decision will help us to revive our culture stolen by the residential schools,” she added.
Herrera said the declaration would be followed by steps that would include introduction of more comprehensive Cree language teaching in the curriculum at Maskwacis schools and programs for which funding would be needed from both provincial and federal governments.
The announcement came just a few days before Canada officially promised that it would sign The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.