Dear Editor,

Would you publish this letter in your paper as I would like to reach out to as many Native educators as possible and to the people in general about my passion.

I’ve researched just about as many Aboriginal languages programs there are from Ministries of Educations, school boards, education authorities, Indian Affairs, First Nations organizations and I said to myself, “Why are Aboriginal peoples still talking English or French in homes, schools workplaces and in communities be they rural and urban settings?

There are missing components for sure, because children, youth and young adults still use English as their first language.

It has to start from home. “Home” being you, it begins with you to have the desire to pursue learning your language and modeling it by speaking your language so children, youth and young adults hear it. Plant the “seed” in their minds, and the desire will come forth from within their hearts. That is the home I am talking about, and, yes, grandparents and parents must be the first models of your language. My children and grandchildren must have this desire continuously, so I speak Cree to them as much as possible.

My father used to get upset when my Cree was becoming “baby Cree”. He observed, “It’s because you live in cities where your language goes to sleep.” So, let’s wake it up and just DO IT! Use CreeTalk so we can CreeSpeak! My mottos from my Cree Language Virtual Creeclass websites.

Tell and read stories of legends, explain their significance, if you know them. My father was disappointed with APTN when it first broadcasted, he was eager to hear Cree or other Native languages. “Ahhh,” he said after several viewings, “I might as well watch CBC… they all speak English.” The Elders said the same thing. They were disappointed nothing was hitting home like hearing the people at APTN using their languages.

We need grass-roots level educators and people from the community contributing to these programs because they live the life and gained real life-experiences. I have always told the president and dean of education at Lakehead University to have Cree, Ojibway and Oji-Cree Elders come and teach the languages at their language programs in their languages. And also present the Elders with honourary degrees like they do for performing artists and politicians.

Just because they don’t speak English or French, that doesn’t mean they are not educated in their sense of the meaning of textbook education. There used to be a huge forum of knowledge in reserves when we were growing up. I count that as a blessing Elders sought me out to learn from them.

Having so many aunts and uncles, you had lots of “classes” at the grass-roots community school to learn from. Now, that was a true-to-life extended family learning environment.

I thank you for your patience at my “outburst” of my Native languages issues and concerns.

Stella Koostachin,