In honour of 2019 being the International Year of Indigenous Languages, Red River College is expanding its Indigenous Language offerings by launching a new program aimed at preserving the Cree language.
The Indigenous Language – Cree program is part of the College’s ongoing commitment to advancing Indigenous achievement and supporting language revitalization.
“When you have a language, it’s like having gold in a vault. It’s very precious. It has a value,” says Ida Bear, a Cree instructor at RRC for 22 years. “It doesn’t have a monetary value, but it has a spiritual value.”
Originally from Norway House Cree Nation, Bear has been an instructor and Indigenous language advocate for over 50 years. She is a vivid storyteller who brings language instruction to life and uses many techniques to support language training, including art, music and land-based learning.
Recently, the University of Winnipeg bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Bear for her lifelong commitment to Indigenous language education.
“Everybody uses language; it has a function for communication, it’s a social institution, it’s a political institution, and it’s also personal for self-esteem,” she says.
For Bear, teaching Indigenous languages is very personal, and will become even more so this fall when she begins teaching her people’s first language as part of the newly launched program.
“Language needs to be protected,” says Bear. “In our societies, we were gifted with language as we were gifted with colour and our talents. For some, [that talent is] words, and I find that to be very spiritual.”
The Indigenous Language – Cree program will follow a similar model as RRC’s existing Indigenous Language – Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) program. Both will be full-time, year-long certificate programs that use land-based learning experiences and focus on the social, cultural and historical significance of Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad.
“Strong program development at the post-secondary level is key to growing Indigenous people into all industries,” says Rebecca Chartrand, RRC’s Executive Director, Indigenous Strategy.
“We are committed to language revitalization, and our programs support language initiatives and train educators in the K-12 school system as well as community based programs. Our next step will focus on early childhood education, and as we move forward, we will continue to work with our elders, community partners and industry to see where the needs are and what we can do make Indigenous learners successful.”
Indigenous language programs are offered at RRC’s Notre Dame Campus, and include two three week practicum placements.