Category: Decolonization

Award-winning master’s student researches Indigenous language revitalization using video-chat technology

William (Bill) Cook (MEd’22) was recently awarded one of two Spring 2022 Associate Dean’s Graduate Student Thesis Awards. Bill is from wapâtikwaciwanohk (Southend, Reindeer Lake) Saskatchewan. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Brandon University in Manitoba. Bill has a BA in Cree Language Studies from the First Nations University of Canada and has taught Cree language at all levels for over 20 years. Bill’s award-winning thesis is entitled, “Indigenous Language Revitalization: Connecting Distant Cree Language Learners With Cree Language Speakers Using Video-Chat Technology.” The following is a Q & A with Bill about his research story:

Q & A with Bill Cook

Why did you chose to do your master’s degree (thesis route)?

I chose the thesis route because when I started considering doing my masters, I was told by a few people that if I were considering doing a PhD program after my masters, then going the thesis route would be beneficial to getting into PhD programs. For me, doing a thesis was much more beneficial than I thought. It taught me how to do a study, how to collect data, how to work with people as participants and co-researchers, and I learned some different methodologies both Indigenous and non-Indigenous on how to approach research. I feel that going this route prepared me to be a better researcher.

 Why did you choose the U of R?

I was a Cree sessional instructor at the First Nations University when I met Dr. Andrea Sterzuk. She had taken a couple of Cree courses that I taught. I had inquired about an EdTech grad program and Andrea mentioned a master’s program through the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education called Curriculum and Instruction, which included EdTech courses that interested me. She thought this would be a good fit. I agreed. I applied for the program and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and the Education Research and Graduate Programs offices were so helpful to me during this process. It also allowed for me to continue working close to home.

What were the circumstances that led to your research thesis topic?

My research topic was Indigenous Language Revitalization: Connecting Distant Cree Language Learners with Cree Language Speakers Using Video-Chat Technology. This topic was an easy choice for me to decide on. I have been teaching the Cree language for over 20 years at all levels of education from instructing kindergarten students to university courses. One question I have been asked by many language learners throughout the years has been “What do I do next to become fluent in the language?” and my answer is always to immerse themselves in the language and, if possible, to move into a community that predominantly speaks the target language. Most times, language learners are not able to move to those locations, which are typically First Nations communities. By identifying that distance was the barrier, I wanted to see if using technology to make these connections would be beneficial in language learning and also if this could be an option to anyone from anywhere for Cree speaking practice.

How did this topic become important to you?

I believe the work in Cree language revitalization is very important work. If we ever lose our Indigenous languages in this country of Canada then where do we go to learn them? This is our home, our land. Our Indigenous cultures, languages, traditions, identities stem from this land; the land is our language. This is all we have, we have nothing else, we can’t go anywhere else. We have a responsibility to reclaim, revitalize, preserve, and maintain our Indigenous languages.

What were your research findings?

In doing my research I found that having regular synchronous video-chats were effective in remote language learning in both language and culture. Fluent speakers can share their language and culture just by being themselves from wherever there is Internet access. Also, when working with non-tech savvy participants, you must assist with the technology or else find them someone they are comfortable with to assist them. Laughter was a dominant factor throughout the daily virtual conversations, having fun with your project is a good thing. It was enjoyable to see everyone getting more comfortable with speaking in Cree as much as they could. Video-chat technology is a good tool for connecting grandparent with grandchild; this grandparent/grandchild pair in my study made bannock in real-time while repeating Cree words of the process. (See video below).

What impacted you most about your findings?

What impacted me the most was that once the connections were made, the conversations began to flow naturally. The project began a life of its own and seemed to have a spirit of its own. The participants were able to adapt to technology. I am so grateful to all my participants for their work. The relationships built during this process allowed for the conversations to happen naturally. I wondered if the participants not being face-to-face would be able to achieve this connection and I was impressed that it had.

What was the highlight during the process?

The highlight for me was to get to do my study in my hometown and spend time with my family back home in Southend was a bonus. It reminded me of my childhood, growing up and doing things like netting, plucking ducks, filleting fish, making bannock, and cooking on an open fire. Another highlight was watching my participants, especially my parents, gaining confidence in using the tech tools. Lastly, hearing the Cree language being spoken between the learner and speaker was enjoyable to observe.

What recommendations did you make based on your research findings?

The recommendations I developed were:

  • The use of video-chat technology as a language learning tool is only one way to share language and culture.
  • Investing in tech tools that fit your language learning style is a good investment.
  • Finding ways to employ fluent speakers to share their language and culture using technology is a good step towards revitalizing, preserving, and maintaining language.
  • If you don’t know the protocols of the area then ask; there is nothing wrong with asking.
  • For communities: they can find ways to employ their fluent speakers within their organizations, training community members in technology-based language platforms is a good investment.
  • For schools, universities, and other organizations: they can help in Indigenous language and culture revitalization by incorporating fluent speakers and knowledge keepers within their education systems.

What do you hope will be the outcomes of your research?

I hope to see more opportunities like this study. When the pandemic hit everyone went online to spend time with each other, communicate, and speak, in all languages. I think I have reached an outcome of seeing more people using video-chat tech to communicate and practice language learning. Today, I see many platforms for Indigenous language learning. I hope people continue and grow.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue working in Indigenous language and culture revitalization. I recently got accepted to the Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization Doctorate Program at the University of Hawaii in Hilo. I look forward to where that opportunity takes my work. I would like to create employment for fluent Indigenous language speakers with or without having Western education degrees/certificates. This is URGENT to do, as we are losing fluent speakers daily and many of them are not certified to teach in a Western setting. Why do we have to wait for fluent Indigenous language speakers to get certified to pass on their languages? I believe there is a way to incorporate and employ fluent language speakers into Indigenous language programs and courses. I am currently an Assistant Professor at Brandon University. There I will continue teaching the Cree language, creating opportunities for other Indigenous languages, and continued service work in the community and online. I have also been offering a weekly Cree speaking practice group called ‘The Cree Group’ using video-chat. We can be found through Facebook. My work continues with Indigenous languages and cultures using different platforms of technology.

What have been your experiences in the First Nations University of Canada and the University of Regina?

The First Nations University and the University of Regina were both supportive during my studies. All the professors and classmates made my experience enjoyable. The atmosphere was welcoming and I felt at home in these spaces. I give credit to the instructors for being so helpful. There were many opportunities to help me along the way which included study groups, writing groups, financial funding and other support systems that played a role in my success. I am thankful for that.

Who were your influences in deciding on a career in the field of education?

I have to give credit to my late brother and mentor Darren Okemaysim kakî-itît for influencing me in my career in teaching the Cree language. He was my teacher; I took many classes from him. He was my mentor, and gave me the opportunity to teach classes alongside him. He always encouraged me to speak the Cree language, rarely did we ever speak English to each other. He once told me “If you continue your work in the Cree language, you will never go wrong” and he was right. Also, my wife and parents are always supportive and influential of what I do. I feel I am on the right path; this is what I am meant to do. There is lots of work to be done in Indigenous language and culture revitalization.

________________________

Links to Bill’s ongoing Cree language and culture work:

Facebook Group page (announcements) https://www.facebook.com/groups/1422458251268465

Bill’s Website where you can sign up for the Cree Group events: https://www.creeclass.com/

 

 

 

 

 

De/colonising Educational Relationships

During 2020 and 2021, Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich (University of Regina) and Dr. Fran Martin (University of Exeter) led a series of seminars on
“De/colonising Educational Relationships” and conducted research at the University of Exeter with grants received from the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education, the Centre of Educational Research, Collaboration, and Development (CERCD), the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education, and the Centre for Social Mobility.

The seminars were provided in two formats: As a weekend virtual retreat at the University of Regina on November 6 and 7, 2021, and as a series of monthly seminars at the University of Exeter. The topics covered for each university reflect the different audiences and contexts. For those interested in how the ideas were adapted for these specific contexts and audiences, visit the CERCD YouTube channel: Click here

Spring 2022 Education News

Click image to access the animated copy of Education News.

In this issue:
A note from the Dean….. 3
Change maker: Tranforming schools and society….. 4
Alumna envisions schools as environments of empowerment….. 10
Why become a teacher? To be a role model….. 16
Alumnus positively influencing change….. 20
Le Bac student helping to preserve Indigenous languages….. 22
Teaching hard truths in a positive way: Kâsinamakewin….. 24
De/colonising Educational Relationships….. 29
Study informs services and supports for South Central Saskatchewan newcomers….. 30
Equity, diversity, and inclusion research partnership agreement announced….. 32
Successful defences….. 34
Funding and awards….. 35
Published research….. 36
New book….. 38
Long service recognition….. 38
New staff|New position….. 39
Student fundraising….. 40

Whisperings of the Land – Indigenous Science

The Whisperings of the Land Indigenous Speaker Series presents Wilfred Buck, a Cree astronomer and long-time educator, who will present on Ininiw Acakosuk (Cree Stars). Everyone is welcome to join us for this virtual event, 10:00 a.m., Monday, May 16, 2022.
 
Register in advance at to receive the Zoom link at https://events.eply.com/WhisperingsoftheLandSeriesWilfredBuck3366920

Whisperings of the Land series event

The Whisperings of the Land Indigenous Speaker Series presents Dr. Herman Michell who will speak on “Land-Based Education: Embracing the Rhythms of the Earth” as part of the 2022 Indigenous Science: A Spiritual Path series.
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
11:00 a.m. (CST)
via Zoom
Register by April 5, 2022 for this free virtual presentation at https://events.eply.com/WhisperingsoftheLandSeriesHermanMichell
Hosted by the #UREdu Education Indigenous Circle
Everyone is welcome!

Event: All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward with Tanya Talaga

Join us March 21, 2022 6:30 p.m. (CST) for a Zoom presentation by acclaimed Canadian storyteller, journalist, author, and CBC Massey lecturer Tanya Talaga!

Tanya Talaga, of Anishinaabe and Polish descent, is the author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City.

Everyone is welcome!

Register for the event at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tanya-talaga-all-our-relations-finding-the-path-forward-tickets-267708622697

2022 Whisperings of the Land presentation

Please join us on Wednesday, Feb 16, 2022,10:00 am-12:00 pm CST to hear from Elder and Professor Willie Ermine, First Nations University of Canada.
 
Elder Willie Ermine will speak about “tapping into the creative life-force for ultimate understanding.”
 
The 2022 Whisperings of the Land Indigenous Speaker Series, hosted by the #UREdu Education Indigenous Circle, will focus on Indigenous Science–A Spiritual Path. Indigenous speakers will share their perspectives on Indigenous science and how all teaching and learning is spiritually imbued.
 
Everyone is welcome.
 
Register by February 15, 2022 for this free Zoom Presentation: events.eply.com/WhisperingsoftheLandSeries2022

Education News | Autumn 2021 issue


In This Issue:

A note from the Dean…..3
Stories about Indigenous education and unmarked gravesites in Canada…..4
Artistic expressions: masinahikêwin yêkâhk/ Writing in the sand poem…..10
Inaugural Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Métis/Michif Education…..13
Education Students’ Society Truth and Reconciliation Week events…..16
Candidate for the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Awards 2021-2022 competition…..17
“I need to be in the quinzhee, not just talk about it!” Embodying our pedagogy…..18
Pimosayta: Learning to walk together slideshow…..21
Les étudiants du Bac mènent les activités de la Journée nationale de vérité et de réconciliation…..22
Le Bac student activities…..23
Funding and awards…..24
New faculty and staff…..26
Retirements…..27
Published research…..28

Inaugural Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Métis/Michif Education

We are pleased to announce the launch of the inaugural Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Métis/Michif Education within the Faculty of Education, University of Regina.

Dr. Melanie Brice has been appointed to the inaugural Gabriel Dumont Chair in Métis/Michif Education for a 5-year term. Dr. Brice has been working with the University of Regina Faculty of Education since 2018 as an Assistant Professor in Indigenous Education, Language & Literacy Education, and Educational Core Studies. Dr. Brice a Michif (Métis) born in Meadow Lake and raised at Jackfish Lake, Saskatchewan has a strong understanding of Indigenous histories, cultures, languages and literacies, perspectives, educational experiences, and cross-cultural education issues.

The Gabriel Dumont Chair in Métis/Michif Education will increase research and teaching capacity in Métis/Michif Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina and enhance academic engagement with Gabriel Dumont Institute’s (GDI’s) Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP).

As Chair, Dr. Brice will focus on the research that seeks to understand and expand the scholarship of teaching and learning by building capacity in Métis and Michif education. The research program will focus on research, learning, knowledge-keeping, language and cultural revitalization, reconciliation, and inclusion with and by the Métis through formal education systems.

According to the Statistics Canada 2016 census, with a rising population of 51.2%, the Métis were the fastest growing population in Canada between 2006 and 2016. However, less than two percent of Métis people speak the Michif language, making the Michif language one of the most vulnerable Indigenous languages in Canada.

With the establishment of this new Chair, the first in a Faculty of Education in Canada, and many other endeavours toward Truth and Reconciliation, the Faculty continues to demonstrate a concerted and sustained commitment to teaching and research that is engaging faculty, students, and other education stakeholders in gaining a deeper understanding of our shared histories and a reconciliatory approach to a more just future. (Photo credit: Sweetmoon Photography)

Recommitment to lifting up IRS-affected communities

On behalf of the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina, all of the faculty and staff, I am saddened to hear about the recent discovery of 215 First Nation children buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Today and every day, I recommit to lift up the communities affected in their time of pain, mourn with the grieving families, and honour the lives of over 4,100 children across Canada who never came home from the Indian Residential Schools. I also honour the strength of those who survived them.

As educators on the ancestral territories of many First Nations and the Metis, it is our collective priority to ensure all learners gain a deeper understanding of the truth and also our shared histories as we work to forge respectful, contemporary relationships. If we are ever to achieve reconciliation it must be our collective responsibility.

Dr. Jerome Cranston
Dean/Professor
Faculty of Education
University of Regina

Kamloops (St. Eugene) Indian Residential School (IRS) was operated from 1890 – 1978 (88 years) under Roman Catholic administration. It became the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system with peak enrolment of 500 students in the early 1950s.