Sioux Lookout hosts elders for language, knowledge sharing symposium
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
More than 30 elders gathered together for a language and knowledge sharing symposium in Sioux Lookout from May 27 to the 31.
Hosted by Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education (KOBE), Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA), and Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre (KERC), the symposium saw Elders come in from the First Nation communities of Fort Severn, Deer Lake, North Spirit Lake, Keewaywin, Poplar Hill, Wunnumin Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwig, Kasabonika, King Fisher Lake, Muskrat Dam, Wapekeka, Lac Seul, Sandy Lake, and North Caribou Lake.
Writers and facilitators from the communities were also in attendance to record the knowledge shared by elders during the symposium, which took place at Donnelly’s Minnitaki Lodge, located on the shores of the Pickerel Arm of Minnitaki Lake.
“We started talking about our event in the fall. I held my first elders gathering with my KOBE elders last spring. We held it in Fort Severn last year so, this year, KERC approached me if we could do a partnership with them as well as IFNA to hold an event here in Sioux Lookout… The purpose of the gathering is language and culture. Many of our elders are rapidly going… We are racing against time to capture stories and terms that they are using. The purpose of this gathering is to collect words and phrases that are not commonly used anymore. Many of the old language, as I call it, are not used anymore,” explained Sarah Johnson, manager for KOBE.
“I thought it would be good to have Sioux Lookout district communities come here. Communities west from Pikangikum all the way around to Wunnumin Lake First Nation, so I think we have around 37 elders that came,” she added.
The elders were divided into groups during the symposium where they then participated in sharing sessions.
“I wanted to divide the languages so we have Oji-Crees, Crees, and Ojibways. They’re all working on the same words, but it will be in their own languages. The purpose of that is we’re giving these to our schools. The teachers are going to use them and anyone who is a resource to our schools,” said Johnson.
Traditional food was served and prepared for the elders during the event, along with entertainment that was provided daily. Some of the entertainment included an Elvis impersonator, singing, square-dancing, and a shopping trip to Dryden.
Johnson shared that, in the future, they plan on continuing the symposium event every year.
“That is the plan. This will be one of our special events every year now,” said Johnson.
A press release detailing the event confirmed their plans to continue these efforts, “Our languages are important and as organizations that support First Nations education, we will continue to work with communities to keep our languages strong and vibrant.”