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Bringing the Cree Language into Academia
September 9, 2007

Through his newly published book entitled Cree Narrative Memory: From Treaties to Contemporary Times, Professor Neal McLeod of Trent’s Indigenous Studies Department is hoping to encourage the use of the Cree language in academic studies.

The importance of storytelling to Cree culture, and how stories are vital to understanding the history of the Cree and their rejuvenated future, are central themes examined in this visionary book.

"What makes it unique however is that I draw heavily upon oral history and traditions, and also family archives," explained Prof. McLeod. Cree narrative memory is described as much more than simply storytelling: it involves the collective memory of generations, and the spirituality, dignity, humility, and connections through time and place of Cree peoples.

In his new book, Prof. McLeod examines the history of the nêhiyawak (the Cree people) of western Canada from the massive upheavals of the 1870s and the reserve period to the vibrant cultural and political rebirth of contemporary times. Central to the text are the narratives of McLeod’s family, which give first hand examples of the tenacity and resiliency of the human spirit while providing a rubric for reinterpreting the history of Indigenous people, drawing on Cree worldviews and Cree narrative structures.

"My grandparents helped build the First Nations University of Canada in the early days, and while I was kid, in those formative years, I would travel with my mosom (grandfather). We would go to various gatherings where Elders would be, sharing their knowledge and stories."

In a readable style augmented with extensive use of the Cree language throughout, McLeod draws heavily on original research, the methodology of which could serve as a template for those doing similar work. While the book is based on the Cree experience of the Canadian prairies, its message and methodology are applicable to all Indigenous societies.

"I am hoping to help preserve our oral history, and to promote the use of the language in academic studies," said Prof. McLeod.

Prof. McLeod is Cree and Swedish and was born and raised in Saskatchewan. For more information about Prof. McLeod and his work with the Indigenous Studies Department, visit his website.