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Language And Culture Discussed By Elders

Gloria Ledoux

"Our language is the base of our culture, if we lose that we will lose everything," Elder Gus Waskewich stated at a one day Elders workshop held at the Meadow Lake Tribal Council offices on Friday, January 15.

Chief, Percy Derocher welcomed the visiting Elders on behalf of the Meadow Lake District Tribal Council. The office employs 30 staff on behalf of approximately 5000 registered Indians.

Visitors to the Workshop were Jim Thunder from Edmonton and Smith Atimoyoo from the Saskatchewan Indian Languages Institute. Jim has traveled extensively across Canada and into the United States visiting reserves and talking to Elders.

Smith Atimoyoo welcomed the opportunity to sit with fellow elders and share his interest and ideas and them. Smith was one of the founders of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Center in 1970, when it was funded by the Church of England World Relief Fund.

Smith as director and field officer, the late Valentine Nighttraveller as business administrator and Marie Bighead, typist all worked under the leadership of Dr. Dave Ahenakew who saw the need to start using our culture and traditions, and tap spiritual aspects to bring the Indian people back together.

People were already not respecting spiritual ceremonies and starting to disintegrate. The young people were being brought up by the white man's standards. In 1974, Ken Goodwill changed the Cultural Center to the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College.

Elders discussed the possibility of documenting and preserving the meaning of ceremonies including the pipe Ceremony, the Sweetgrass Ceremony, and Sacred cloth.

Elder Lawrence Tobacco wanted to know how the Chiefs could better utilize the Elders at the District Chiefs level and have the role of the Elders defined. Other Elders outlined their duties.

Elder Bill Standingready volunteers his services and support at funerals, wakes, feasts, etc., whenever he is called upon.

Elder Eli Bear visits jails and holding homes to talk to Indian people. Elder Joe Turner has been invited to visit schools to teach Indians songs, dances, etc.

Elder Gus Waskewich reiterated the power of the pipe and stem. "If we do not support or use our Elders, then we are destroying ourselves". He tries to set an example to his grandchildren by the way he conducts himself and uses every opportunity to visit the people on his reserve.

As time and budgets permit, the Elders will expand to include women to sit with them. At present, Elder Lizette Ahenakew is the only female on the board.

The Elders put their wisdom together to revise "The Tipi" concept by translating the poles from English to Cree and from Cree to Cree Syllabics. This same procedure will include the Saulteaux and Dene languages as time permits.

The next major project the Elders will undertake will be revising the book, "Kaytayuk".

These Elders will be holding similar workshops at each District, the next one being in the Fort Qu'Appelle District. Elders would welcome as many Elders as possible to participate at these workshops.

Antoine Sand and Jean-Marie Felix
Antoine Sand and Jean-Marie Felix
Joe Turner and Lawrence Tobacco
Joe Turner and Lawrence Tobacco