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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Custer

Decline of The Cree Language in The Younger Population

I’ve been thinking about this problem a lot! This is what I’ve concluded. We, fluent speakers, are part of the problem We take our language for granted. If you think about this and truly reflect on this problem then you will find two things: Fluent speakers speaking in English to each other in the work place, at the store, on the street or where ever they happen to meet. I see this more commonly if it takes place in an urban setting. When I am at home in Pelican, surrounded by my family, I find myself speaking Cree 99% of the time. However, when I am with people that may not be from my community, we converse in English. I’ve seen others do the same. I also find the same problem when I speak to people who are also in large part living in an urban setting even if we are from the same community. It’s aggravating. There are so many people out there in the world who have this desire to reclaim their language and here we are choosing to speak in a foreign language. How insulting this must be to them and to their reclamation efforts. We are not doing our nations any favours by choosing English over our own beautiful languages. It bothers me now that I type in English. We are helping the decline of our own languages. Yes, the government should fund programs in the schools and in the communities but ultimately, we need to take some responsibility for our future generations. It should be nurtured in our homes, by aunties, uncles, parents, siblings and grand-parents. If three generations can converse with each other in the language, then that language is healthy. This should be our measure in our families.

Another reason I say we take our language for granted is how I notice fluent speakers talking English to my son, who is now four months old. I’ve taken him to many different places where he’s had the opportunity to meet many fluent speakers. It almost never fails that what they first do is speak English to him. I do not know if they realize that what they are doing is teaching him English. Sometimes I ask them or remind them to talk Cree to him and it gets frustrating because I often have to repeat myself.

Very few people understand that it’s important for him to be talked to in full sentences in his language. This is because he is just beginning to learn a language and I prefer for him to learn Cree. This is also true for all other children who are born with the ability to learn any language.

I do not blame anyone because at one time, I wasn’t aware of this too. I did not know that I was contributing to the loss of our language. English is so dominant that we have to make conscious efforts to surround ourselves in our language through people, books, websites, youtube, radio etc. in our languages. Most importantly, if you are a speaker, speak Cree to children. It is their birthright.

Some questions that I leave you with: 1) As a fluent speaker, how often do I use English in my home? Are there others I can speak with in my language? Do I speak my language to babies? Do any children around me speak my language?

Speak Cree to Your Babies

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