Quebec Cree invests $ 2 million in language and culture

The Quebec Cree Nation has announced an investment of more than $ 2 million for language and cultural revitalization.

While signing a series of memoranda of understanding Tuesday in Chisasibi, Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty reiterated her desire for a concentrated and regional commitment to strengthening the Cree language and culture.

“This is a priority for me in my leadership role to ensure that all members are able to access their language and their culture as Eeyouch. [Cree people] here in the territory, “said Gull-Masty.

Among the signings, the Cree Nation Government is making $ 650,000 in additional funding available to the Nishiiyuu Council of Elders and $ 200,000 available to the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association for language and culture programs.

The money is coming out of the government’s surplus and is on top of regular budgets. It will go toward program assessments and reviews, as well as improving current programming, said Gull-Masty.

This is a priority for me … to ensure that all members are able to access their language and culture.– Mandy Gull-Masty, Cree Nation Grand Chief

“I’m very proud to be from a nation that has been built on the backs of multiple agreements,” said Gull-Masty. “But now is a time that we self-reflect.”

Further funding commitments have also been made with the Cree Trappers Association and the Cree Nation Youth Council. Separate signing ceremonies are being planned for later this year.

Support for non-fluent Cree speakers

“We have members within the Cree Nation that are non-fluent Cree speakers,” said Gull-Masty, choosing to deliver part of her speech in a livestream Tuesday morning in English. She said these members are “a priority in this process.”

“They are the victims of language loss,” said Gull-Masty, who has in the past spoken about her own struggles to learn and improve her Cree language.

“We must move forward with not only enhancing their fluency, but also to create an environment free from shame and judgment,” she said.

Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty said she wants to see better collaboration and co-ordination for a “nation-wide” mandate to protect and strengthen the Cree language and culture. (Grand Council of the Crees livestream)

The entities receiving the money say it will help them moving forward.

“Today is a good day for the Eeyou Nation, because we are investing in our language and culture,” said Charlotte Ottereyes Ratt, president of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association.

Elder Robbie Matthew Sr. is the chairperson of the Nishiiyuu Council of Elders, an advisory group to all organizations and Cree entities. He said the funding will help preserve past teachings from grandfathers and grandmothers that are so important to a Cree world view.

“Why did we leave those teachings from our past … from our past grandmothers and grandfathers? That’s what we really need,” he said Tuesday in Cree.

United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages

The United Nations has declared 2022 to 2032 the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

Chisasibi Chief Daisy House, who also took part in Tuesday’s livestream, said Cree leaders have a lot of work ahead. She also encouraged Cree people to use their language during the upcoming Goose Break holiday, which celebrated in Cree communities and a time when Cree families head out to their camps to hunt the returning geese.

Chisasibi Chief Daisy House encourages people to use their Cree language and celebrate their Cree culture during the annual Goose Break holiday, a time when Cree families head out on the land to be with family and hunt the geese returning to the territory. (Submitted by Daisy House)

“It is one of the places where we use our Cree language the most. Our vocabulary is different when we are out on the land,” said House.

Gull-Masty said one of the main goals of these investments is to see better collaboration between the Cree Nation Government and the entities that serve the population.

“Nation-building is spearheaded through leadership… but we can’t do that alone. We have to do that in partnership with the entities that serve our Cree members,” said Gull-Masty.

She also hinted that this funding is just the first part of investment and support for language and cultural preservation.

Gull-Masty said there will be a review at the end of the current fiscal year in March of 2023 to establish funding priorities for the Cree nation moving forward.

“I truly believe that Cree language and culture protection is a high priority for Eeyouch,” said Gull-Masty.

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