Northern Sask. school principal uses Bruce Lee movie to teach Cree
Simon Bird says using pop culture to teach language makes sense
Most Cree lessons don't start with the phrase "ostikwanik nipaskawataw" or "I kicked him in the head."
However, Simon Bird isn't an everyday Cree teacher.
Bird, a principal at Senator Allen Bird Memorial School at the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, Sask., has subtitled a clip from an old Bruce Lee movie in an attempt to teach Cree to more people.
"Growing up in the north, that's what we used to watch," he said. "The humour that's used in there is basically timeless."
In the grand tradition of over-dubbed martial arts movies, Bird supplies the voices for the characters ... even the women.
"If you make teaching interesting, the students will definitely want to be part of the process," he said.
The video is a small part of Bird's campaign to teach more people Cree over the internet. His Facebook group, #CreeSimonSays, has close to 9,000 members.
"I think it's very important for my kids, because it's part of their identity and it's part of our culture," he said. "The sad thing is, there's a lot of people that are no longer around that speak the language. It does bring a certain healing."
Bird wishes that more Cree teachers would take to the internet to help spread the language. He said it's a great way to reach the younger generation.
"Everything that I produce on Facebook is all done with my cell phone," he said. "I think the most expensive app I have is about $6."
The pop culture references don't stop at Bruce Lee. Bird also made a short video from the Disney movie Moana, overdubbing the clip with Cree dialogue.
Montreal Lake is located about 220 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.