Parents of young children wanting to take an innovative approach to learning one of Saskatchewan’s eight First Nations languages can now do so through a series of translated beginner-level books and an audio/video app for Apple devices.
The five books are available in Woodland Cree, Plains Cree, Swampy Cree, Saulteaux, Dene, Nakota, Lakota and Dakota.
The books focus on childhood development issues and are expressed using imagery culturally specific to the students reading them.
Professor Arok Wolvengrey of the First Nations University of Canada, who helped with the project, says while books won’t bring back the languages, it’s a starting point for reintroduction.
“Books alone are not going to bring that back. This is a signal that we are trying. We’re doing as many things as we possibly can to foster communities where this is important, where there’s prestige in these languages,” Wolvengrey said.
“It’s a very important initiative because the Indigenous languages are the first languages of this country. They face endangerment, they face loss. There are, especially in the southern part of this province, very few people under the age of 50 who are fluent in their language.”
The books, which are in English, include a translation into Indigenous text and phonetics. On Monday at the Government House in Regina, students from two elementary schools in the city were read the book A Tale of a Tail in Cree and English.
The books are intended to fill a gap in language deficiency, but also serve as a vital link between children, families and their culture.
The books are available through and audio/video format free through the Aurasma app, read by elders and synchronized to each page flip, so children can hear how the language sounds.
“The voices that go with them are such a vital part of this project. Not a lot of people have seen these languages written down. And that includes people who still speak them,” Wolvengrey explained.
(PHOTO: One of the five books translated. Photo by Dan Jones.)