Sept 5 to Sept 8, 2023, marks my first week of teaching Cree in the classroom. I have been able to utilize many resources, both printed and online, that I helped develop. The students have been a challenge, as expected, however, I had much support from other teachers, Elders, and educational assistants.
While some of my classes went well, there were instances when the Internet let me down. Technology, let me down. As a computer technician, it was a bit disappointing. What helped, were the Elders who told me about their ideas and thoughts on cultural activities, and the printed resources that I had in my classroom. There are so many printed resources developed by my colleagues over the years, I kind of felt overwhelmed when it came down to choosing what to use.
I did not realize the effort it takes to teach Cree and to try and provide an environment for Woodland Cree Cultural Activities. I have to teach five classrooms: (K-1), (2-3), (4-5), (6-7) and (8-9). Oh, and I was assigned to a high school class: Native Studies 20, a small class, but I need to research topics I have not read about much, since university.
I am hoping for a better week this coming week, of course it will depend on how well I can plan my classes. I will continue to seek advice for the Elders at the school, and from my many colleagues who provide support for each other.
Several years ago, there was a post on Facebook about an Indian Trust Fund in Canada. It said that it was where the Canadian Government, took their capital from when they funded Indigenous people in our country.
It was a counter argument to the people, usually non-native, that money supporting Indigenous people did not come from tax-payers money, below is a screenshot of the post. I scribbled the name of the original poster (OP), because I do not have permission to post their name as he is not a public figure:
Back when I first saw the post, I thought it was interesting, but it did not concern me very much because it was difficult to discern fake news at the time. In May 18, 2021, an article on TorontoMet Today, highlighted the issue.
How much money flowed through the Indian Trust Fund and where is it now? How can the myth of “free money” for First Nations be deconstructed? What do solutions for financial reparations look like?
It is a very interesting article and worth a read by both Native and non-native people alike. In our quest for reconciliation, it is important that we all have the facts before making assumptions about other people, or nations.
I went for a walk along a groomed trail today and felt a bit of nostalgia from the way the trees looked along the path. nimosōm used to take me out rabbit snaring at the trapline when I was a boy. I remember I would feel a bit of uneasiness, but he would always have his .22 with him. I did not know at the time that a .22 would not be very effective on a bear, wolf, or very much else for that matter. It was good enough for me at the time, and it made me feel better.
I remember the trails we would follow would be along the muskeg. The trees would be small evergreen trees that looked ready to die. There would be the odd dead black popular tree with its dead branches and birch trees that had seen their better days. I used to see these dead trees and think, that would be a good spot for an owl to land and look for our rabbits hanging off our snares. We lost many rabbits to predators and one time, nimosōm shot a lynx that was eating one of our rabbits (NIMOSŌM SHOOTS THE RABBIT THIEF).
In the early fall, we would use a canoe along the shore of the lake and get to the area where we walked to in the winter. It was all so fascinating to me. At almost every area we came upon, nimosōm would have a story about what happened to him and/or other people. He would have such a hearty laugh, I remember how his shoulders would bounce as he laughed at his stories. I heard from some people that his stories were rarely true, but I did not care, I loved to hear them. I wish I could hear one now.
There is a significant difference in Cree sounds when you use a macron, a bar above a letter (ō), or a circumflex, a hat above a letter (ô). Both make a long vowel sound, as in moose. I usually use a macron because that is what I learned in high school.
Moose sounds very much like our Cree word, mōswa. The word is actually much closer to the Ojibwe word “mooz,” except they use a nasalised “oo” sound.
In the meme, you see a moose kissing another moose. Now if the moose could talk, one of them could say, nīcimos, which means my boyfriend or girlfriend (romantic partner). In CreEnglish, nīci mōs or nīci moose, means, my fellow moose. The proper Woodland Cree word, would be nīci mōswa. Listen to the audio, and you will notice how it is sounded out.
Woodland Cree word – nīcimos – my boyfriend/girlfriend
CreEnglish word – nīci-mōs or nīci-moose – my fellow moose
Woodland Cree word – nīci-mōswa – my fellow moose
There is an excellent article from our friends at the Cree Literacy Network called “Reading Plains Cree in SRO,” I encourage you to check it out. It presents information on all the consonants and vowels used in the Cree language. The article has many examples and even audio by Solomon Ratt, audio is always very helpful for the learners. I have referred to this great website many times over the years.
I thought it would be an interesting article to discuss the vowels we use in SRO. Okay, let’s be honest, I just wanted to show off the moose meme. Feel free to share the article or download the meme and then share. Thank you.
I recently read a couple of posts on LinkedIn by Jason EagleSpeaker that have inspired me to write about the same topic.
And this one:
These posts reminded me of Grey Owl, and how he had portrayed himself as a First Nation. I heard that he lived at Prince Albert National Park. A group of people were talking about it in my Native Studies 10 class, they mentioned that they visited Grey Owl’s Cabin near Waskesiu Lake.
Although he died in 1938, I had only heard a mention, or two, of Grey Owl. After the discussion in my class, it turns out that he was not even an Indian. He was an Englishmen from Hastings. About six-years after I learned all of this, a film was released in 1999, starring Pierce Brosnan (Yes, James Bond). It was simply titled: “Grey Owl.” I enjoyed it and I kind of knew how it was going to go, so that was no surprise. The real surprise, was James Bond trotting around, looking so Indigenous. It was actually pretty cool.
So, the exposé of Grey Owl, not being an actual Indigenous man, was not shocking to me, because his existence was from a previous time, and it was well known. He does have an interesting story and if you are interested, please find links below this article.
The first unexpected revelation to me, was that of a professional wrestler named: Chief Jay Strongbow. He wrestled in, what is now known as WWE, during the 70s and 80s. By the time I learned he was an Italian American, I already accepted that pro-rasslin’ was scripted. Like a theatrical play, there are “actors” pretending to fight and presenting all kinds of drama for the fans. I was disappointed, but not “shocked.” On a side note, I was very happy to learn that Chief Wahoo McDaniel and Tatanka were real “Indians” and not Pretendians. I have read an article where Ultimate Warrior was asked if he was portraying a Native American, but that concept was squashed by Warrior himself.
The first real shock to me on the revelation of a Pretendian, was the author of Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden. When my university class used his book for assignments and discussion, there was no doubt in my mind that he was an Indigenous man. My class covered the entire book, and we had great discussions over the characters and of Indigenous men in world war history.
I enjoyed the book and was fascinated by the tale of Xavier and Elijah, two young Cree men who volunteered to go to war and became snipers. Boyden, I imagined, was a great First Nations man who was successfully presenting Indigenous people as having great potential. While Indigenous people do have great potential, the farce of Boyden really pissed me off. Why did he not just represent himself as what he was? I do not feel it is wrong to be inspired by another nationality, however, honesty is very important in these matters. Might he actually be Indigenous? Hmm, maybe he should have mentioned it at the beginning and had been forthright about his heritage. Instead, many of us foolishly assumed he was First Nation because of the books.
Anyway, there have been other reveals in the past few years and I am not really surprised, especially by people involved in the entertainment industry and politics. A prominent author of many popular Indigenous books would seem to be of First Nation ancestry, but I guess we all learned our lesson. If anything, it has made me question anyone, who “claims” to have Native blood in their ancestry. So, thank you for that Mr. Boyden.
The first time I heard of Brian McDonald was in 2005 when he and others developed an immersion school in Onion Lake. I was working as a web developer for the Gift of Language and Culture website, based in La Ronge. The first song I ever heard from Mr. McDonald was tânisi, it was, and still is, a very popular Cree song. It is one of the best Cree songs I have heard, right up there with many Winston Wuttunee tunes and Carl Quin.
There is a GoFundMe page organized by Belinda Daniels that states:
This action for fundraising is for Brian MacDonald; for all the years, his songs were used by family members, teachers, schools, the community & artists across the Cree country.
It is a very worthy cause and I happily donated what I could to help out Brian McDonald for all his contributions to the Cree music universe.
I have typed out the lyrics of the song, tanisi, line-by-line, and included audio clips for whoever wants to practice saying the phrases. I took the lyrics from our dear friends from the Cree Literacy Network and added them to my website. Be sure to check out their great Cree website: https://creeliteracy.org/
tānisi Song: Brian MacDonald
Hello! – tānisi!
How are you? – tānisi kiya?
I am fine. – namōya nānitaw.
Come on in. – pihtikwē.
Sit down. – API.
Have some tea. – maskihkiwāpoy minihkwê.
It’s nice that you’ve come to visit. – tāpwê miywāsin ê-pê-kiyokawiyan.
Where have you been? – tānitê ê-kî-itohtêyan?
Please tell me what you’ve been doing. – mahti ācimo kîkway ê-osihtāyan
Please tell me a story. – mahti ācimostawin.
I am trying out a new microphone but it is not the greatest. I have a new mic in mind and I might purchase it in the next month or so. Check out the link, maybe you can use one too. If you have a suggestion, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for visiting.
I made a video clip for Halloween. A ghost girl named Bethany introduces her friends to us in Woodland Cree.
Animation is very time-consuming but the end product is fun to watch. Thank goodness there are multiple online sources for images, video, and audio. All I need to do is put it all together using Adobe Animate and Movavi Video Suite. I have older versions of the software here at home, but they work just fine. If I had the time, I would contract out my services for cheap animation. Who knows, maybe I can make time, it is fun stuff to produce.
The idea for this animation, came to me a bit late and too close to Halloween. I want to make more animations and cannot wait until my inspirations entice me to put in the effort.
I have been sober for a total of 70 days. 10 weeks without a drop of alcohol. It has been very difficult for me, considering I used to drink every weekend. It may have been more difficult if I had drunk every day. I am happy to be where I am right now and I hope it stays that way.
My health has improved and so has my weight training. I walk more often, except for a few days when my knee was sore, but that is bound to happen when you have not been active regularly. My muscle memory is improving every week, so much so that I am going to have to watch myself and not get injured.
I have not started any intense exercise such as jogging, but I do go on a stationary bike sometimes. I would like to save my knees for when I am older, I am currently 48 years of age and I have seen too many of our middle-aged friends and family members with bad knees. I did have a bit of a scare last week but my knee is much better now. I hyperextended it by tossing and turning, of all things. Who knows, maybe I weakened it by going too hard on the stationary bike or by walking too fast.
I have seen many posts on Facebook by survivours that did not make it home. If you are Indigenous, chances are, you have been affected by residential schools.
kahkithaw awāsisak akisowak – Every Child Matters
atōspīwinākwan papakiwayān – Orange Shirt
When you really think about it, we are all affected in some way. We all live together on this land and we all affect each other one way or another. It would be remiss for anybody, not to acknowledge the terrible history of residential schools, day schools, and other places where Indigenous people were supposed to be “assimilated” into mainstream society.
While it does not make up for the atrocities, I find it welcoming that Orange Shirt Day has been recognized across our nation. I have read the story of Phyllis and her orange shirt that she was so proud of. It is a very disheartening story, I cannot imagine the horror she went through and the very indecent and atrocious “welcoming” she received when she first attended school (https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html).
I hope this day brings awareness to all of our country and to the world. We can never forget what took place and we must try to find out what happened to those left behind. I really hope we can all live in peace and harmony someday. I hope we can all accept each other and our diverse beliefs, the way it should have started when the settlers arrived.
Please have a look at the new images that I have been working on. I took a lot of time because I was getting more and more indecisive. I finally decided to post three different designs that you know of, lol.
You will notice in two of the images, I use a fifth hand (orange hand), it is to represent the missing children that never came home to their loving families.
If you want to print any of these images out to a t-shirt, please feel free, as long as you keep my website logo on the side. I further request that you donate any profits to a charitable organization that recognizes victims of residential schools.
I realize and understand, that the translation and/or interpretation of the phrase, “Every Child Matters” has been discussed and debated on social media. However, I will not be participating in such a subjective topic because it can easily be taken out of context in both text and tone, thank you for understanding.