Lakeland College is offering lessons on Cree language and culture this spring. This introductory course will teach those participating structure, phonics and conversational Cree.
Taught by Clint Chocan, Lakeland’s manager of Indigenous support services, the lessons will also provide insights into Cree culture. Chocan believes that language is an integral part of indigenous culture and heritage. His first language is Cree, and he says that it works very differently from other languages we may know.
“For First Nations people, spirituality is the connection of everything that exists; culture, ceremony, nature, kinship, language, all creation. In the Cree language, there is no literal translation for most words, it’s all about meaning. If you don’t understand the root of the word or the phrase that you are trying to express, then you’re not able to translate it,” says Chocan.
Various learning techniques and strategies will be used to help participants in their studies, including chants and songs, visual and audio aids, and other exercises. This is to help the students gain a good understanding of the words as well as phrases. Chocan says that by the time they’re done, they should be able to form conversational sentences. He adds that understanding the language is key to understanding the culture it comes from.
“For someone who wants to understand their culture or a culture, they would go to the language because the language can connect them and teach them why things are the way they are. Some of the ceremonies and beliefs that we have are explained through just one word. Once you learn how those words connect with the beliefs, you’ll get a clear picture of the indigenous cultures and the world view and perspective of First Nations.”
Chocan has worked to revitalize the Cree language since 1994. He developed resources for the Cree immersion language program and taught in Onion Lake, Sask., schools. Chocan joined Lakeland in 2016 and has led a number of Indigenous support service initiatives, including a reconciliation speaker series, raising of the Treaty 6 and Métis flags on both campuses, Cree language workshops and more.
Introduction to Cree language and culture will be offered at the Lloydminster campus two evenings each week from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The program will run for twelve weeks beginning Monday, May 6. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and registration is available online.