An expert on the Cree language says it is time to move language based learning beyond the classroom to grow more fluent language speakers.

Dr. Belinda Daniels, originally from Sturgeon Lake First Nation and a professor at the University of Victoria, says there is a willingness in Saskatchewan to learn the Cree language – as seen by the many K-12 Cree language programs in the province.

However, Daniels believes this learning needs to move beyond the classroom to grow better fluency.

“This is why I say – I am not sure schools are the right place to build fluency,” said Daniels. “I do believe our language revitalization efforts begin in community and on the land.”

Daniels believes learning the Cree language on the land with other Cree speakers is the best way to build fluency.

“When I am learning with a group of people who are all learning Cree in the context of the land, something in my brain just clicks,” she said.

Daniels was the keynote speaker at the first ever Cree Language Conference hosted by the YXE Cree Speakers Society at the Dakota Dunes Conference Centre this week.

(The Cree Language Conference hosted by the YXE Cree Speakers Society.  Photo by Joel Willick)

Conference organizer Milton Tootoosis says the Cree language has come a long way with reclamation efforts in the past ten years, however, he says more needs to be done.

Tootoosis says there was much excitement when Canada passed the Indigenous Languages Act in 2019, but there is still funding shortfalls to adequately build fluent speakers of the language.

The conference is spending two days looking over several different models to grow fluent language speakers.

Tootoosis he hopes the conference is the first of many.

(TOP PHOTO: Belinda Daniels.  Photo by Joel Willick.)