Researchers: Sheena Koops, Celeste Tootoosis and Lisa Ewack

While watching her mother transcribe nehiyawewin stories for the Saskatchewan Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations, Celeste Tootoosis learned the importance of listening and working as a language technician. Celeste began her own journey of language revitalization as she secured access to Elders, storytellers, and language keepers for her own students. The title of this research proposal comes from one of these stories. She heard an Elder speak of the language storage as vaults, making the metaphor that the vaults are like borders, and like the deer, we must learn to cross boundaries. In Treaty teachings, the word pim is like the birds, living a natural way of being, travelling here and there, jumping fences with ease.

After the lockdowns and isolation experience on reserve from the early years of the COVID pandemic, the reality on many First Nations is that Elders and language speakers have been lost and the reality of language and culture revitalization is in a crisis mode. Within our circles at Treaty Education Alliance – Asiniw-Kisik Education Campus, Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex, Pheasant Rump School, and White Bear Education Complex – we are committed to helping our Treaty 4 communities, from teachers and school staff to parents and community members, participate in language and culture revitalization. Our research questions are the following: First, how can our research team and teachers within TEA schools access and gather seasonal stories for language “vaults” within their communities? Second, once teachers access stories within language “vaults”, what will they do with them? Once teachers access stories, what ways will they make them their own in their teaching and learning? Third, what does it mean to our teachers and research team to reclaim language an culture as Inherent and Treaty Rights?

The objectives of this study is to improve access for children, teachers, parents and Elders to access, and share language “vaults.” Language may already be digitized or still living within language keeper’s hearts. By using seasonal ways of sharing story and language, such as the Treaty 4 Gathering, round dances, kahomane, sweats, songs, gatherings, we will climb fences or even make new roads-through, allowing access to language and culture as the cycle of creation unfolders within on year, September 2023-September 2024. September 15th, 2024, will be the 150th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 4.