Reviving and sustaining the Cree language by taking it to the radio air-waves

Students at Mistawasis Nehiyawak in Saskatchewan are learning their Cree language at school and using it to do radio programming for their local radio station CHEK 93.7.

Cree instructor Calinda Duquette and tech coach Denise Desjardins work together with the students who are between the ages of 5 to 13.

On air, the students from the Chief Mistawasis school do morning prayers on the air for their attentive mushums and kokums at home.

“They are proud, they are competing on who can come to the radio station,” said Duquette says.

“We use different students every week to come to the radio station they are all waiting to come but we try give everyone an opportunity.”

One regular student who goes on-air is 13 year old Dustin Matheson.

He is one of the hosts during their radio segments.

“I am here to say good morning to Mistawasis Nehiyawak and we just say stuff about our school news whatever is happening our school events and after lunch we sometimes do a freestyle thing that we usually do,” she says.

(Cole Rabbitskin, left, and Dustin Matheson are ready to go on the air. Photo: Priscilla Wolf/APTN)

When the older kids can’t host, eight year old student Xavier Pechawis sits in the big seat to host their radio segment.

The students really enjoy being on the air and speaking Cree for the Elders listening at home on the local radio station.

“We will be coming up the stairs and we get phone calls we can hear Darryl say oh they are just arriving . So we get calls when we are arriving,” said Desjardins.

Recently some of the students went on a field trip to Rawlco radio in Saskatoon to see what a city radio station looks like.

When one of the hosts, David Kirton found out they do regular Cree radio segments, he asked them to contribute to his radio program Meeting Ground.

The students were happy to do it.

Participating on these radio segments not only helps to build self-confidence and self-esteem, but may create a few future broadcasters.