Message from the President

The President's Message is sent out to faculty, staff and students by e-mail regularly throughout the year. The most recent message follows.  For previous messages, go to the President's Message archives in oURspace.

President’s Message – February 2019


Members of the University community,

It has become my practice, whenever I speak in public, to acknowledge that the University of Regina is located on Treaty 4 territory, with a presence in Treaty 6 territory – the traditional lands of the nêhiyawak (Cree), Anihšināpēk (Saulteaux), Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda First Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation.

I do this in part to pay respect to the peoples who first inhabited and continue to inhabit the lands that are now home to all of us. I also do it to remind us about the obligations we have to those communities and treaties.

Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month – which takes place every February – is the perfect time to explore Indigenous perspectives and world views. Storytelling is a traditional way to teach language and pass along cultural beliefs, history, customs and ways of life.

I am so appreciative of the faculty members, students, researchers, and others associated with the University of Regina who are telling the stories that are bringing worlds together. I feel especially proud when those stories are shared with an audience that stretches across our country.

That’s exactly what transpired Sunday, January 27 on one of CBC Radio’s flagship programs, The Sunday Edition. While usual host Michael Enright was not on the air that morning, Solomon Ratt, an Associate Professor in the Department of Indigenous Languages, Arts and Culture at First Nations University of Canada, was. 

Solomon was on the show to shed some light on a crisis – the disappearance of Indigenous languages, not only in Canada, but around the world. He was also there to talk about how, through storytelling, Indigenous languages are being kept alive. You can listen to Solomon’s interview here.

With the help of the University of Regina Press, Solomon and others are doing their part to help ensure that those Indigenous languages never disappear. The Press has made a commitment to publish a series of First Nations Language Readers over the next several years. The books, each in a different Indigenous language, contain such things as old legends, new tales, and prayers.

There are currently six books in the series (Cree, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Woods Cree, Lillooet and Gros Ventre), and the Press is hopeful that it can chronicle every Canadian Indigenous language in the years to come. That’s more than 60 languages, two-thirds of which UNESCO cites as endangered – with the remaining considered vulnerable. According to the CBC program, one of the world’s estimated 6,500 languages dies every two weeks.

Solomon, who was born in a trapper’s cabin on the Churchill River in Northern Saskatchewan and went to Residential School in Prince Albert, has been teaching Plains Cree (Y-dialect) at First Nations University of Canada for more than 30 years. His contribution to the First Nations Language Readers series is nīhithaw ācimowina (Woods Cree Stories), a collection of sacred and new stories that teach life lessons through funny, occasionally bawdy, tales. He is also the author of mâci-nêhiyawêwin (Beginning Cree), an introduction to the Cree language.

Arok Wolvengrey, Professor of Algonquian Languages and Linguistics in the Department of Indigenous Languages, Arts and Cultures at First Nations University of Canada, serves as the series editor. He also edited the first volume in the Press’s First Nations Language Readers, Funny Little Stories, a collection of nine stories representing the Plains Cree, Woods Cree, and Swampy Cree dialects, with a pronunciation guide and a Cree-to-English glossary.

Other books in the series connected to faculty at First Nations University of Canada include Jan van Eijk’s translations in These Are Our Legends and former faculty member Margaret Cote who edited and translated Nenapohs Legends, the traditional teaching stories of Nenapohs, the Saulteaux culture hero and trickster. A new book, in Nakoda, is expected this Fall. 

This past year, as part of the University of Regina Open Textbook Program, funded by a grant from the Government of Saskatchewan, the Press partnered with the University of Regina's Dr. John Archer Library to produce an updated, open-acess version of nēhiyawēwin: paskwāwi-pīkiskwēwin (Cree: Language of the Plains), by Cree expert and teacher Jean Okimâsis. The textbook, workbook and audiobook combo has already been accessed more than 10,000 times.

This is incredibly important work. As Solomon pointed out on The Sunday Edition broadcast, language can’t be separated from culture. While Canada has an abundance of Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut speakers, among others, Indigenous languages such as Assiniboine, Oneida and Lillooet are critically and severely endangered, threatening a rich and vital part of their stories and identities.

As we begin Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling month, please join me in celebrating the important contributions made by those individuals mentioned here and the others across our country who are similarly involved in efforts that are helping to better our world.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Vianne Timmons
President and Vice-Chancellor