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Article: Traditional Dene Education

Lucy Robillard, an Elder of Stony Rapids, Saskatchewan spoke about language revitalization and it's importance to the Dene people. In the Dene culture, the grandmothers, and the women in the community looked after the children. They were watched very closely as toddlers. When a child reaches age four they were expected to walk on the trail, so they could "grow strong". They also had to do chores such as carrying one piece of wood into the tent. Between age four and eight, children were tended to by their older siblings and learned who their relatives were, took part in camp life in general and observed the activities of the adults.

The traditional way was disrupted and as a result became unstable by the introduction of the European traders into the vast North. Further imbalances were created as the mission schools removed children from the teachings of their parents and grandparents. Later the community schools forced families to become sedentary, so the children could attend schools, as the result the social style and family lifestyle changed.

Many children were deprived of the spiritual relationship with the land and elders. European ways destroyed the balance between the spiritual and natural world that a child would've been carefully instructed to know. As the result, there are young people who are educated in the western way of thought, and there are Indian leaders who do not have the traditional knowledge of their ancestors. Language is important if we are to learn about who we are. For years and years, the Dene people have used the knowledge of their local environment to sustain themselves and to maintain a cultural lifestyle and identity. It was only during the last two decades that this knowledge has been recognized by the western scientific community as a valuable form of information.