Long ago, when books were rare or unheard of, storytelling was the way to pass on wisdom, humour, dirty jokes, tragedies and just plain old information. Then along came the Bible, which was translated into a new written language called syllabics, or “mi-me-mo-ma,” as some liked to call it. In a way, the teaching style of the written Cree reminded me of the way French used to be taught, with its endless repetitions of passé composes and subjunctifs, both of which contrasted with the rhythmic style of the old storytelling ways we were used to learn.
In fact, the Bible was the only book written in Cree and Inuktitut for nearly a century. Today, because of the dedicated efforts and time the school board has put into making Cree a written language, it became a welcome sight for many Elders, who had only one book to read from. I think now, with everyone’s heads bowed down to the mighty internet tablet or smartphone, that the ancient style for transferring knowledge may be again in danger. Unless… everything goes digital, Cree language, stories, the works.
In many ways, the digital world could be the answer to preserving and enhancing our families and culture. It may come to pass that it will replace good old Juumshum and Gogum (grandparents in general) for cultural retention. Just imagine: instead of Juumshum guiding you on how to set a beaver trap, you just carry his teachings, maybe even for that very spot and by the dam itself, on an iPod or tablet. In fact, he could even Facetime with you to see the trap being set live from his cozy, solar-powered cabin in his neck of the woods. And the girls, well, they could do the same for Gogum. Ahhh… tradition meets technology.
In some parts of the world, people have taken to simply putting an iPad in their seat at events like weddings to dance at the party, kiss the bride and even give toasts to the happy couple, all for pennies. I can see little remote-control robots with an iPad at live-yet-virtual parties. Care to tango anyone?
We could do the same, but I am afraid I may be muzzled by the transportation industry. The need to physically travel to another community for events could greatly curb business so much that the entire industry could collapse if this gets out. Wait a minute, someone’s knocking at the door, who could it be? No one knocks around here… Whew, just some mixed-up kid in a Freddie Kruger costume who thinks Halloween got changed due to some hockey schedule. Where was I, oh, yes, getting muzzled.
Far from being muzzled, our own distinct society could forever be engraved in some cloud (sounds a bit oxymoronic doesn’t it?) until something wipes out its energy supply, or simply, until the world ends. We could survive forever, practically, and yet still, remain the same. Now, if that only had something to spoil that scenario. Uh oh, battery low, anyone seen my charger? I need to recharge this laptop so my words can be preserved forev–