Renee Ouellette is a recent graduate of the University of Alberta’s Education and Native Studies programs who decided to turn her Cree student teaching resources into a side hustle.
Ouellette made posters showing animals, foods and various school supplies in the Cree language.
“I shared them on a public page, a teacher’s buy and sell page on Facebook, and it exploded. There were 600 people who were interested in it and I got requests for more,” she explained.
The response was unlike anything she expected and it inspired her to launch her own online store through Teachers Pay Teachers, called Lilsuppyco.
She said it’s important for kids to know about Indigenous culture.
“We are on Treaty 6 land and it’s important for people to understand the stories, history and culture with the people who first inhabited this land.”
Ouellette has since expanded her product line.
Heather Lam, from Parkland County’s Graminia School, is one of Lilsupplyco’s recent customers.
“It was Orange Shirt Day, and as a French teacher, I thought it was important to spend the day honouring the language of our residential school survivors.”
Lam decided to use Ouellette’s materials to help teach her students colours in Cree, a language many of them had never heard before.
“I found those resources super, super helpful and the kids just loved it,” Lam said.
“It was also really great for the Cree and Metis students that I have to have their culture showcased in the classroom and be the experts for the day.”
Chevi Rabbit, an Indigenous advocate, loves the idea.
“As a Cree person, I think it’s amazing. I wish I had these opportunities when I was growing up in Ponoka, to learn aspects of my language, because they weren’t available back then.”
Rabbit said it would be amazing to have Cree included in school curriculums, and this is a step in that direction.
“I think that’s progress and it’s showing we’ve come a long way from where we were — where Cree language was outlawed and residential school survivors were abused just for speaking their own language.”
She said the initiative shown by Ouellette, to educate herself in Cree culture and then share that knowledge with others, is amazing.
“I think if we had more of this going on throughout Alberta, I think there would be less hate and less racism, there would be more understanding.”