Aboriginal culture and languages are closely connected and sometimes viewed as inseparable. Each language reflects the unique way Aboriginal peoples view and relate to the world. Each carries with it an unspoken netwrok of cultural values which are a major force in the shaping of each persons self-awareness and identity. Words in a language, the ideas, and feelings they represent, and the way they are spoken allow people to fully express their traditional beliefs and ways of interacting with each other. These values help generate a and maintain an individuals level of comfort and self- assurance, and consequently success in life. In the normal course of event these values are absorbed along with ones mother tounge in the early stages of life. For most young Aboriginals today, culture and language have infact been separated. As a result most of these young people are trying to walk in two worlds with only one language. (Henze & Vanett, 1993)
Decline of Aboriginal Languages
Aboriginal languages have declined in use for a number of reasons, a major contibuting factor being the Residential School Systems. They were in operation from the 1840's through to the 1960's. Residential Schools run by missionaries were boarding schools for Aboriginal children. Aboriginal children in the schools were apprehended and seperated from their families at the most impressionable stage of their lives, and were forbiden from, even punished for, speaking their traditional langauges. The languages were therefore not passed on from one generation to another. Enduring these harsh efforts of assimilation the parents of the next generations thought they were doing their children a favor and helping them fit into Canadian society by not teaching them their language.
Because concepts in the Cree languages can't always be translated into english, learning Cree is key to ensuring that Cree history and traditions are passed on from one generation to the next. Most of the people who can still speak the language fluently are elders. It is known that as the elders pass on to the spirit world- they take the langauge and culture with them. We unsterstand the very importance of holding on to the language and culture, and this is why we feel obligated to provide this very valuable service to you!
One Generation From Extinction
...It is Native People who have the most cause to lament the passing of their languages. They lose not only the ability to express the simplest of daily sentiments and needs but they can no longer understand the ideas, concepts, insights, attitudes, rituals, ceremonies, and institutions brought to them by their ancestors; and having, lost the power to understand, cannot sustain, enrich, or pass on thier heritage. No longer will they think Indian or feel Indian. They will have lost their identity which no amount of reading can restore.
- Basil Johnston,
One Generation from Extinction
In An Anthology of Native Canadian Liturature in English, eds. Daniel David Moses, and Terry Goldie (Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 1998, pp. 99-100)
Reed Kevin, 1958-Aboriginal Peoples: Building for the Future(Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada,1999, pp.16-17)