Cree language teacher encourages students to be proud of who they are

·2 min read

As part of the treaty, Indigenous peoples have the right to feel proud of who they are, says a Cree language teacher.

Jamie Davey teaches Cree lessons to Grade 7 and 8 students at R. Ross Beattie Public School in Timmins.

Davey, who’s been teaching at Ross Beattie for four years, said smudging and drumming are regular activities in her class. This year, there’s a large population of Indigenous students in her class, she noted, and any student at the school is welcome to take her Cree class.

Throughout the generations, it’s been challenging for Indigenous people to practise their treaty rights due to genocide and oppression.

When students have space to speak their language, practise who they are and be proud of it, they gain confidence and self-esteem, Davey said.

“My role in my classroom is to make it normal. Let’s make smudging normal, the teachings of the medicine wheel,” she said. “Let’s smudge, let’s drum because it’s part of who we are. I want them to feel pride in who they are … Part of the treaty is having that right to feel proud of who we are.”

During Treaties Recognition Week, the students learned about the history of Treaty 9. They compared the oral promises that were made with the written document.

They also explored a variety of topics, Davey said.

In class, they discussed climate change and environmental impacts caused by hydro, mining and logging.

Davey said in Weenusk First Nation (Peawanuck), climate change has affected people’s way of life. This year, the firewood has been damaged due to the forest fires. When people were harvesting firewood, they had to scrape away the burned parts of the tree, according to Davey.

Climate change is not only “impacting First Nations. It’s impacting everybody,” she said.

The students also watched two documentaries: Trick or Treaty? and Hi-Ho Mistahey!.

The first one is a 2014 film about Treaty 9 and touches on the Idle No More movement that started in 2012. Davey went through each part of the documentary explaining it to the students.

“A lot of the kids in my class … were just little when it happened, Idle No More. It’s very interesting to hear some of their perspectives and their comments on what we’ve been learning about the treaty,” she said.

The second film tells the story of Shannen's Dream. The students learned about the promises that were made regarding education.

All of the discussed topics lead back to the treaty, Davey said.

“Overall, the spirit of the treaty is to help each other,” she said.

With some help from the students, Davey shot a video for Treaties Recognition Week. In the video, students are seen drumming, singing, talking about the treaty and speaking to each other in Cree.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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