A new type of indigenous language class is being offered on Poundmaker Cree Nation. Alongside Miyawata Culture Inc., the Plains Indian Sign Language Camp is taking place on the Poundmaker Cree Nation from July 28 until August 2.
This camp utilizes the rare art of Plains Indian Sign Language as a way to rejuvenate and revive endangered indigenous languages. The camp aims to teach twenty Cree words or phrases per day in the language over the five days it runs, for a total of 100. Floyd Favel, organizer and producer of the event, says that this may be an easier task than some might think.
“Our languages are in a precarious state… and we need to find innovative ways to teach our language,” says Favel. “It just so happen that Plains Indian Sign Language, because it’s gesture and action-based, one quickly learns the accompanying words or phrases to the action.”
Favel believes this goal is feasible and best suited for the upcoming camp, adding that these results cannot be replicated in a traditional learning environment. The workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Lanny Real Bird, of Crow Agency, Montana. Real Bird is one of the few fluent speakers of sign language left on the plains, of which they are approximately 1000 known speakers left. Favel sees an imperative to help keep the language alive.
“It would be a great loss to humanity if that language was ever lost, because it’s an effective teaching tool.”
The workshop takes place at the Chief Poundmaker Museum, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. Registration is very limited but open to all who wish to attend. Workshop fees of $50 per day apply. Those looking for more information or to register can contact Floyd Favel at (306) 317-3097, or through email at [email protected].