Thunder Bay·Superior Morning

New Oji-Cree phrasebook launching in Thunder Bay

First Nations people hoping to hold onto the traditional language of Oji-Cree will have a new tool to help them.

'Once you start learning your language it changes everything,' says translator Jerry Sawanas

'Pocket Oji-Cree' is a book to help anyone learn his traditional language, but he especially hopes it will encourage youth, said broadcaster and translator Jerry Sawanas. (Amy Hadley )
It's all about keeping a language alive. A new Oji-cree phrase book is being launched in Thunder Bay tomorrow. Jerry Sawanas wrote the book. 7:25
First Nations people hoping to hold onto the traditional language of Oji-Cree will have a new tool to help them.

Pocket Oji-Cree is a phrase book being launched in Thunder Bay, Ont. on Saturday, Dec. 19. 

The book is full of handy phrases one might use when visiting an Oji-Cree community, said translator Jerry Sawanas, and it will serve a vital purpose in helping to keep the language alive - especially among younger generations 

"It's for the kids. For the young people," he said. "They don't have the Aboriginal education that those of us that are older have. And this is great way to begin — going into your culture by learning how to talk to your grandmother, your aunt, or elders in your community." 

"Once you start learning your language it changes everything. It changes the way you think. It changes the way you look at the world. It goes from a dark place to a really bright place." 

Pocket Oji-Cree is the fourth in a series of phrase books that began with Pocket Ojibwa, written by language teacher Patricia Ningewance Nadeau, and published by her company, Mazinaate Press in Winnipeg. 

She wrote the original book about ten years ago, and it's since been translated into Cree, Inuktitut, and now Oji-Cree. 

"Our languages are disappearing," she said. "What the government intended back when the residential schools were being built — they wanted to take the language away. And that's what they've almost done. And I want to do my part in reversing that."

The book is being launched at the Waverly Library in Thunder Bay, at 10 am on Saturday.