We are grateful to WHEAT student Niki Watt's for sharing her beautiful song and her learning process from her experience in Dr. Kevin Lewis' Trickster Tales: Traditional Cree Stories for Beginning Cree Learners class. We are looking forward to continuing our Trickster Tales class with Kevin on Wednesday evenings, and offering nêhiyaweywin (Beginner Cree) Levels 1 and 2 on Tuesday evenings, in the fall. kinanaskomitin Kevin for such an inspiring class!
Artwork by Niki Watts
"This past April, I had the privilege of enrolling in Dr. Kevin Lewis’ Trickster Tales: Traditional Cree Stories for Beginning Cree Learners class offered at WHEAT Institute. As a Cree woman who was born and raised in a different province than where my band is located, I was excited for the opportunity to learn my native language. The class was a mix of beginner to intermediate Cree speakers- everyone was welcoming and supportive of one another. Before the course, I knew very little Cree, I only understood some basic words and could put together a few basic sentences. Now, coming to the final weeks of Dr. Lewis’ class, I know essential phrases such as introductions and closings and know the names of a variety of animals. Additionally, I have a better understanding of proper cultural protocol for our peoples ceremonies and dances. The stories Dr. Lewis shared braided Cree terminology with English, this allowed students to follow the narrative, while helping to memorize new words.
One of the class assignments required students to share a song in Cree and present it to the class. My process involved consulting with my Cree speaking mother and my uncle Bruce McGilvery, who were my language mentors during the duration of this course. My sister, mother and myself collaboratively wrote the song “Grow Flower Grow,” one afternoon after being inspired by the warm spring weather and fragrant blooming flowers in our garden. My sister Caley, who is a musician and who has a small recording studio in Bella Coola BC, helped weave together the instrumental pieces for the composition. The music came together much faster than expected, the same afternoon Caley and I sang and recorded the vocals. The illustrations featured in the music video are samples of my artwork. They were chosen with the intent to add a visual component to the lighthearted melody of the song.
Listen to "Grow Flower Grow" at https://mega.nz/file/KLBnUQyD#-4SYMGOwwpAG8L-H90irOZU50hU2Budh1NevOcck_6I
Reflecting on this project, I admit that I was both equally excited and nervous. My main concern was that I might mispronounce the lyrics, but as soon as the song was written, and I was singing, the nerves subsided. Learning a language sometimes means making mistakes. This is ok! It is important to keep trying and pushing yourself to learn. Many resources are available to students on the internet or in book form that will speed up the learning process. Lastly, our teacher recommended students reach out to speakers that we admire and wish to emulate. Maybe it is a môsom, kohkôm, ohkomisimâw, kikawis or otôtêmimâw who tutors you. They are the ones who will help you and support you on your journey."
~ Niki Watts
Artwork by Niki Watts