I fondly remember growing up the trapline around this season when I was a boy. My grandfather went out one time, just before freeze- up (mikiskāw) and told me that he was going to go check out a couple of places that needed his attention. I wanted to go with him but I could tell from his body language that he didn’t want me coming along. I wanted to go so badly but I didn’t ask, he went off and was on his way using the old rickety canoe that we used on so many duck hunting outings.
That evening, I waited patiently at my parents cabin for his imminent return as I noticed the weather changing drastically. The temperature dropped very noticeably and we all knew there would be ice the next day. He did not come back the next day and I missed the evening Cree story telling I enjoyed in the early nightfall. I was getting worried about him as the camp felt empty to me, without him.
On the second day, the ice was already getting thick, as there was very little wind to break the newly formed ice. I went to the shore again to see if he was coming home. It must have been my third trip to the shore that day. It was nearing about 4:00 PM, or somewhere around there, when I saw a familiar speck across the lake where the ice must have been thinner.
As he came closer, I could tell he was starting to need to put more effort into his paddling. The ice near the shore was at least an inch thick but my grandfather, wanting to show the man he is, broke through at a snails pace to get to shore. I was so happy to have him back home, and with him, was a couple of ducks that didn’t make it down south.
That evening, I read out some Archie comics (translated to Cree from me) to him as he sat listening intently, to another Archie vs Reggie adventure.
In 2005, I started working for the Gift of Language and Culture Project as a casual web designer. Little did I know that they were expecting a Flash based website with images, text and audio all rolled into one for each category. I was overwhelmed by the expectations but I was happy to at least be working. I put in many extra hours at home to learn this new application.
I knew enough about image and sound formats but he text part gave me trouble because I had never worked with different text fonts other than the generic types we are all used to such as, Times New Roman, Arial or Comic Sans. I had to learn quickly because the demands of the project team was high and I was expected to work miracles and with new Aboriginal language fonts I never heard of.
We had Cree, Dene and syllabic fonts that needed to be installed on all our computers and I had to make sure people at home and schools could view the fonts on documents so I had to provide a link to the fonts for personal installation. There were also applications I needed to familiarize myself with, such as, CorelDraw, Publisher, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Audition and of course Adobe Flash (Macromedia Flash at the time). I already knew about Adobe Photoshop so that was a big help with the images that needed to be edited and manipulated.
The project team was great and the people were dedicated and willing to put forth much effort to accomplish what we could, to provide resources for Aboriginal language learners all over the country and even some in the United States. We had curriculum developers who compiled the Cree and Dene word lists and translations, illustrators who provided the original clip-art we needed, audio/visual personnel who recorded the audio and video required and of course the material developers who put the resources together for print and distribution.
Part One & Part Two
I personally collaborated with all staff to get what I needed to build the website and put their work together and develop what we see today. If it were not for the cooperation and hard work of the team, I could not do what I did for the website. I am grateful for the experience and I was so sad to see it all come to an end in 2011. It was a big part of my life, 7 years of my life that it still has a profound effect on me today.
I think I did well on my self-learning because we ended up with a great Cree website that is still online and used all around the world and has been viewed by 147 countries. It has had 276,357 hits and 100,226 unique visitors (as of June 17, 2015) which is pretty good for a non-mainstream language and website.
The YouTube Channel has 407 subscribers 260,379 views as (of June 17, 2015). The channel has songs, concerts, and animations for the whole family to enjoy. There are also a couple of instructional videos for snowshoes and birch bark baskets and many interviews with elders, some who are not with us today.
As the web designer/Flash developer, I received praise for the work I did but I always mentioned the people behind all the important work that needed to be done before I could even develop an animation or Flash exercise. I had a good working relationship with all my co-workers and while they contributed all the work, I made myself extra useful by troubleshooting their computer’s hardware and software when ever they needed it. There was no way I could do my work if they could not do theirs, so it worked out for all of us.
I am currently training to be a teacher at Nortep and hopefully in a couple of years I will be able to contribute to the Cree language professionally with much more credibility. I decided to go back to school because I needed more training in the area of education and to hopefully expand my horizons for myself and to contribute more to the learning environment of our students in other areas where it is needed.
On a side note, I would receive emails and phone calls from Montana, Ontario, British Columbia and the all the prairie provinces to let me know what a great job the Gift was doing. One person in particular called from BC to tell me that he loved the website and that two of his children were learning Cree from their mother who was a Cree woman he married from Saskatchewan somewhere, I cannot remember where specifically (it might have been Pelican Narrows). It was a morning call out of nowhere but it was a nice surprise way back about 2010.
I wish the project could have continued but all good things come to an end. Maybe one of these days there will be a revival and if there is, I would love to be involved again and provide my experience and expertise.
maskotīhkom – Spruce beetle/bug. This is a feared insect that is common in northern Saskatchewan and many other places.
Although summer is a welcome season, the spruce bug is an unwelcome visitor to many people who are out enjoying the outdoors or when they leave a window open, which is how I was able to get a picture of this particular friend of ours.
I was bitten by this type of insect once but it was a grey one. I was walking through a trail when I was about 6 years old in Hall Lake and one landed on the back of my head, it crawled to the back of my neck and bit me. It hurt me but when I grabbed it and felt the spiny legs and hard shell I freaked out and threw it. Creepiest feeling ever, the physical pain was nothing compared to it.