Summer school immerses young Aboriginal women in Cree culture

(Edmonton) An annual summer school at the University of Alberta is helping young Aboriginal women connect with Cree culture.

Now in its fifth year, the Alliance Pipeline Young Women’s Circle of Leadership is designed to bring young Aboriginal women aged 12 to 16 to the U of A campus for Cree language lessons and cultural activities. This year’s summer school is running July 8-17 at the north campus.

Each day, instructors attached to the summer school through its organizing body—a three-faculty initiative known as the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute—celebrate traditional indigenous language and knowledge through interactive lessons designed to nurture leadership skills in the young women.

They are instructed in Cree by Ivy Houle and Donna Macdonald, both of whom are Cree immersion instructors. They are taught counting and colours, and are even able to explore their Cree names. The participants also get a chance to learn Cree language and culture through music and guitar played by Houle.

According to Shelby LaFramboise–Helgeson, co-ordinator of the Alliance Pipeline Young Women’s Circle of Leadership, the young women also take part in other meaningful activities including drama and storytelling.

Through these activities, they are connected to a series of traditions with a history that is deeply rooted in their cultural background.

“These indigenous young women have entered a new zone of identity once absent at the University of Alberta’s campus grounds,” said LaFramboise-Helgeson. “This program is rare indeed and provides voice and presence at the U of A. These girls are here to learn their language; however, they have much to teach us about ourselves.”