Cree lessons on offer at Regina's mâmawêyatitân centre

A 12-week program aimed at helping people learn, understand and retain the Cree language will kick off Thursday night at the mâmawêyatitân centre in Regina.

12-week program at centre also livestreamed on Facebook

A Cree language program had been widely requested by Regina residents. (Rachel Zelniker)

A 12-week program aimed at helping people learn, understand and retain the Cree language will kick off Thursday night at the mâmawêyatitân centre in Regina.

The program will be held on Thursdays, between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. CST, in the centre's multipurpose room. It is open and free for anyone who wishes to attend. 

"Indigenous languages as a whole are at a all-time low in terms of people having that ability to speak them and be able to speak them fluently," said Nick Crighton, the cultural diversity and Indigenous relations advisor for the City of Regina. 

Due to colonization, many of those languages have been lost.- Nick Crighton, cultural diversity and Indigenous relations advisor, City of Regina

Crighton said a lot of languages that had been spoken across Saskatchewan and Canada — such as Dakota, Saulteaux or Dene — are not used nearly as widely as they used to be.

"Due to colonization, many of those languages have been lost," said Crighton.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of people who could converse in an Indigenous language dropped to 15.6 per cent in 2016 from 21.4 per cent in 2006. 

The Cree language is one of the most commonly spoken Indigenous languages in Saskatchewan.

A Cree language program had been widely requested by Regina residents, Crighton said.

"It's very important to preserve the language because ... if programs aren't out there, if programs aren't offered, then they end up dying off."

The instructor for the sessions will be Darren Okemaysim, a Cree language instructor, professor and author. 

"We see this as a good opportunity for Indigenous people wanting to maybe retain their language or even have the opportunity to learn it," Crighton said, adding that the program is not restricted to Indigenous people. 

The sessions will be livestreamed on the Regina Public Library Facebook page for those who can't make it in person.

With files from Joelle Seal