Help the Cree Classroom reach $5000!

Cree Language Classroom in Montreal campaign

We are only $715 away from reaching our goal! With Indiegogo, reaching your goal is kind of a big deal, because if you don’t, the site takes 9% of what you’ve raised, and that’s a big chunk of change. Click on the massive link up top if you can contribute.

This project is really important, but why may not be immediately apparent to everyone.

There are over sixty Indigenous languages in Canada, representing one of the highest levels of linguistic diversity in the world. Over half of those languages are found in British Columbia, and every single one of those languages are extremely endangered. Statistics Canada released a report in 2001 saying that only three Indigenous languages are not endangered: Cree, Ojibwe and Inuktitut. However, even these three languages are vulnerable. Fluency can be lost in only one generation, particularly if people relocate to urban centres and do not have a language community to be part of.

Only one in four Indigenous people speak their language anymore, because of the deliberate repression and destruction of our languages through Residential School and a current policy of non-support.

Indigenous people can study almost any language in the world beside their own, even in when living in their own territory!

Here I am, in Quebec, struggling to not lose my Cree language. There is only one Indigenous language class in Montreal: Inuktitut from Nunavik. This program is fairly recent. You cannot learn Cree here, or Mohawk, or Innu-Aiman, or Atikamekw, or Anishinaabe, or Mi’maq, or Maliseet, or Abenaki, or Wendat or Naskapi, despite these ten languages all being represented within this province.

Making things even harder for those of us who speak Plains Cree, is our dialect is not very similar to the Cree spoken in Quebec. So if we were able to whip up institutional support and get government funding, we would only be able to pitch a class that teaches an Indigenous language found in Quebec…which Plains Cree is not. Honestly, I would suck it up and learn Eastern Cree if that were an option to me, but it isn’t. There is a big enough community of people whose traditional language is Plains Cree, living here in Montreal, for us to have a more than one class, so it’s not an issue of need. The need is there. What is missing is the class itself.

What I’m telling you is, there is widespread institutional and political apathy towards maintaining Indigenous languages as it is. If you dare be mobile and leave your territory, you are facing further marginalisation because even if there is some movement in your area towards making Indigenous languages accessible, the focus will be on local languages.

Yes, this makes sense from a cost-benefit analysis point of view, but it ignores our reality, wherein Indigenous people CONTINUE to be very mobile, and where urbanisation is a serious factor.

moccs

One of the Manitobah Mukluks items in the draw at the end of the campaign.

One way we can address this issue is to create a system of support for language courses that do not need massive funds, where information can be shared across wide geographic spaces via social media platforms etc. We do not need a one-size fits all system, but we do need MORE. More language nests, more conversations classes, more intense courses, more synchronous online classes, more everything…and we cannot wait for someone else to set it up for us.

This is big time DIY ethic, because it is abundantly clear that no Canadian government values our languages the way we do, and we wait on them to come around and see our languages as inherently valuable, we’ll have no fluent speakers left.

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The other pair that will warm someone’s tootsies at the end of the campaign!

This is not just a single, isolated classroom in one Indigenous language in Montreal that I’m asking you to fund. I’m asking you to help me prove that this can be done…that we can

create high levels of fluency in relatively little time, even in urban spaces outside of our traditional territories. Because if we can do this, then  it can be replicated across this country. With a very small initial investment in materials, these classrooms can become a viable, immediate answer to linguistic loss. We can set them up in living rooms and garages if we can’t find or afford other spaces. I don’t care, as long as it happens.

And as always, for those who need just a little more incentive, if you contribute $5 or more, you will be entered into a draw to win either a pair of rabbit-fur mukluks, or rabbit-fur moccasins!

Many thanks!

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Categories: Cree, Cree vocabulary, Culture, Decolonisation, Fluency, Language learning

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7 Responses to Help the Cree Classroom reach $5000!


  1. Andrew says:

    Hi Chelsea
    What’s the deadline for meeting the funding target? Thanks for giving us the opportunity to contribute to this.

    • I didn’t want to gamble too much on that 9% so I set the campaign for 45 days. It will end on January 21st. However, our first Cree class is on the 12th, and I am hoping to have the materials in place before then. Right now it looks like we can go ahead and order the SMARTBoard projector and some of the other materials, but I am a little worried that the post-holiday season might cause people to forget about the campaign. It would really suck to get within a few hundred dollars of our goal and pass out right before the finish line!

  2. Brian Fisher says:

    There you go Chelsea, you’re over the top. Now you can get to work on another amazing and creative project that will be sure to bring new life to our Canadian community.

    • Amazing!!!!!! I’ve just put in the order for the SMARTBoard! The funds won’t be completely released until the campaign ends January 21st, but that is not going to be a problem. HOORAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks to everyone who contributed, this is going to be amazing!

  3. Christine says:

    Ouah Chelsea! FĂ©licitations! I hope money will keep coming in for this campaign as you have still one month left. If I recall well, your real goal is 6 000$. I look forward to reading about your class.
    All the best!

    • Thank you, I can’t believe we reached our funding goal in 13 days! We did find a few savings on the big item, the SMARTBoard, which I am very excited about. Initially, it was going to cost us about $4600, which given that Indiegogo takes 4% of what you raise! meant we weren’t going to have much, if anything left for other supplies. BUT, using a regular whiteboard and a SMART LightRaise 60wi projector, we can create a more cost-effective touch-controlled board that proves the same capabilities as the more expensive model. It will still require the bulk of the funds, but it is certain now we will have money for tables, chairs, possibly a binding machine and small printer for course packs (though that has to be costed out versus paying to have it done at a printer’s). Any further money will go towards having a few more physical copies of Cree dictionaries (the online or app version is great but not as useful) and hopefully a few print materials from Lac La Ronge (the Gift of Language and Culture).

      I’m so excited about this, I haven’t been able to sleep properly :)

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