The Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWPSD) Indigenous Education Services’ team is thrilled to be able to offer a Cree language pilot course for the 2022-2023 school year. This year’s virtual program includes 11 students from Grades 7 and 8 from four schools within the Division.
In the past, the opportunity to learn Cree in a formal class setting has been mostly limited to students at Hythe Regional School. During the 2021-2022 school year, a PWPSD student advocated for himself to be able to take a Cree language course rather than French as he felt strongly about learning his own language. Through collaboration with the family, school, and Indigenous Education Services, he was able to meet virtually with Barb Belcourt, PWPSD Cree Language Instructor and Kelly Lake resident, and learn the language.
As we approach the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we reflect on the changes in education for Indigenous Peoples of Canada. PWPSD Indigenous Education Services’ Jackie Benning says, “Residential schools attempted to take all culture from First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples and that included language. Children were punished for speaking in their Indigenous tongue and families were shamed for teaching the language.” She says while disconnect from language is very real for many intergenerational survivors, there are great strides being made in reclaiming language.
The Indigenous Education Services team is proud of the resilience and strength that can be seen through the Cree Language and Culture programming within PWPSD, and one of its goals is to continue to grow the Indigenous Language programming throughout the Division. “This language reclamation journey is a true act of reconciliation as it takes the collaboration of administrators, teachers, librarians, families, and most importantly, learners to make this possible. We are so proud of these students for being leaders in language reclamation and for demonstrating their resilience each day,” says Benning.
Follow the link to view the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.