I was watching APTN and they were speaking with interpreters for native languages at a conference way up north. I loved hearing the different native languages and am pleased the conference was being done in traditional languages; but I was left with a little shame in my heart.
Don’t misunderstand…I’m not ashamed to be First Nation, I’m very proud and thankful that the Creator made me Cree. I feel shame because I don’t speak Cree fluently. I was born and raised on the rez, and both my parents speak Cree fluently. I love hearing my dad speak Cree with his brothers and his friends. I just wish I could do the same. The little Cree I know is what I can remember from elementary school. So sad really.
(Once I asked my dad why he didn’t teach us Cree at home, which resulted in the following exchange.)
Dad- I had a lot of trouble in school because my English wasn’t very good. The grammar and rules for Cree and English aren’t the same. I wanted you guys to be smart and not be mixed up.
Me- I wouldn’t have been mixed up, and it is difficult to acquire a second language as an adult.
Dad- I still think in Cree and have to translate to English. I thought if you wanted to learn it you could when you grew up.
Me- But dad…children under 5’s brains are hard wired to learn language. During that time kids can learn multiple languages and speak them like a first/native language.
Dad- See! I did the right thing, look how smart you are.
He didn’t say so, but I honestly think it all goes back to residential schools. I know the heart of it was a desire for me to do well in school. My parents have always been proud of my scholastic achievements, but deep down I’m jealous of everyone my age and younger who speak Cree fluently.
I don’t blame my parents that I don’t speak Cree, they raised me well and I’m fortunate to have them. I know I’m an adult and I am responsible for my own learning. I need to either find a class or a little old lady who speaks little English. Because I’m a SLP I really dislike when I mispronounce Cree words. (Yes, I started a sentence with because.) Cree words tend to be as long as my arm.
Little cat (kitten)=minosis
At least I have my by ever deadly rez accent.