National Aboriginal History Month Day Eleven: pîkiskwêwin

Urban Native Magazine and Regina Aboriginal Professionals Association have launched a photograph challenge (for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) in honour of National Aboriginal History Month. They’re using the Twitter hashtag #NAHM2015PhotoADay.

Here at the Cree Literacy Network, we’ve decided to play along, by gathering the images suggested – but (with help from Solomon Ratt) captioning them in Cree.

For Day Eleven, the word is language. 

pîkiskwêwin / ᐲᑭᐢᑵᐏᐣ

As a linguist, it’s really difficult to imagine an photo that adequately captures the idea of language. In any still photo, language comes to an abrupt stop!

To me, language is like physics: you really can’t get very far without it. There are hundreds of photos of enthusiastic speakers of Cree to choose from, but instead of any of these, I’m choosing an image titled “Our Language” by the late Manitoba member of the Indian Group of Seven, Jackson Beardy (even though he was Ojibwe from Garden Hill).

In this and in so many of Beardy’s paintings, it’s hard (for a linguist) not to see those spirit-connecting lines from one creature to the next as capturing the idea of speaking and listening – and absorbing to understand. I hope he’d be proud of the language recovery that has taken place since he passed.

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