L-R: Shirley Rabbit, Maryanne Bruno and Solomon Bull. (Photos submitted)

L-R: Shirley Rabbit, Maryanne Bruno and Solomon Bull. (Photos submitted)

Maskwacis Elders: Cree values, language need to be revitalized

“I am the fifth generation of my family. My great grandfather was the first Chief for the Louis Bull Tribe,” said Louis Bull Elder, Solomon Bull.

“I want the next generation to be proud speaking Plains Cree people,” said Bull.

“I was raised by my grandparents. I could talk full Cree without the second language. My grandparents said don’t lose my language.

“We lost most of our language. That’s not how the elders years back had wanted. They wanted to regain our Cree Language and that’s why we have Cree teachers in our schools,” said Bull.

However, Bull recommends that Cree teachers improve the Cree Language curriculum in Maskwacis. Cree teachers must put an emphasis on developing full dialogues in Cree. “These teachers talk Cree, then they finish off in English. That’s not right. You talk Cree all the way,” said Bull.

Bull explains that his great grandchildren come home with Cree home work that isn’t local Plains Cree. “There are different dialects of Cree, Plains Cree, Swampy Cree, and Wood Cree. We are Plains Cree,” said Bull.

“Rightfully, we should have Cree teachers that were born and raised here but now it’s just all commercialized Cree. My children talk Cree fluently. My grandchildren also talk fluent Cree but my great grandchildren are having difficulty understanding,” said Bull.

“Our Cree language is suffering. We are in a really bad spot. This new generation doesn’t understand Cree. That’s not what the past elders wanted for our people. They wanted Cree to regain our language.”

“Right now, even our council — Some of them don’t even understand Cree. Why is that?”

Bull says we need to bring the pride back to speaking Cree Language.

“Some of our people are embarrassed to speak their language but they should be proud,” he said.

“We need to get back to Cree culture and return to values. Many go to church which is okay. I also pray to the man upstairs but I pray in Cree and not English. The Bible is similar to our traditions in Cree. You look outside and you see everything the Creator planted for us. We use those plants for our medicines. I use our traditional medicines. I’m a true Cree,” said Bull.

“We have our own concepts based in Cree philosophy and it’s already in place,” said Maryanne Bruno (Maskwa Iskew) Samson Cree Nation Elder.

“We are returning back to our culture. Language is part of that movement,” she said.

“We need to keep our language. It’s so important. We are the last Cree speakers. We are oral people. We relate to mother earth as in kinship.

“Our Cree language is so vitally important. It’s not just trivial because it’s a North American Language. It was born here. It’s nowhere else in the world. Language is tied to the land. It has a spiritual language,” she said.

“English is a borrowed language. It’s a borrowed language to communicate with our people today but we are definity going back to our ancestral language because our elders keep our language. And so we keep our culture.

“Within the Four Nations of Maskwacis, we keep our culture alive. We have Cree ceremonies, Cree feasts and pow wows. I believe that our communities are keeping our language alive. I know I do. I teach my children and grandchildren,” she said.

“I am a believer of the old ways. Our ancestors didn’t make decisions on the whim of the hat. They took time to think about making these wise decisions. Today, our younger people … they make decisions right away within the same day,” said Bruno.

“Long time ago our elders took time on these decisions that impact everyone. For example, our Treaties our ancestors made with Canada, our leaders and elders took time to think about it. They asked our Creator for the answers. They fasted for approximately two weeks.

Bruno says following Cree protocol is highly important and is part of Cree identity.

“They just didn’t make these wise decisions on their own. As we relate to mother earth. These are natural laws from our creator. Our Creator gave us our own language. We cannot forget that. We need to put our Creator first,” she said.

“Cree people are important. We are a unique tribe. We have one of the biggest tribes. Cree people are across Canada and the United States. Cree are a powerful Nation.”

Bruno goes on to say, “The Cree way in leadership means being in touch with the Creator when making important decisions on behalf of the community.”

“The impacts on our Cree Language by Canada’s residential — The first thing they broke was families, then language and Cree cultures,” said Shirley Rabbit, Elder from Montana First Nation.

“Cree language and traditions have survived within my family. My mother and father spoke Cree. My brothers and sisters speak Cree but the younger generation stopped learning Plains Cree.”

Rabbit explains that families need to take on the responsibility of teaching their kids Cree. She also says, “Cree curriculum needs to be created with local dialects, local stories and local way of understanding and speaking Cree.

“Cree leaders need to walk in both worlds too. A western world and a Cree world. They need to understand Cree values of putting the community first, creating safe communities and the role of a leader is not self gain. They need to understand business.

“These leaders need to know of the sacredness of being a leader. It’s an important responsibility to be a Cree leader. They should know their Cree language,” said Rabbit.

“Cree language grounds you. Ties us to the land, and Wahkohtowin,” said Rabbit.

“Wahkohtowin is about everything. Relationships to each other and the natural world. We are connected to everything. We are a part of everything.”

Note: Elder Cree protocol exchange was followed before the interviews took place.