Harriet St. Pierre says she is proud the Michif language is being used to name a street in Saskatoon.
The City of Saskatoon’s civic naming committee selected the name “Shakamohtaa” for a future street in the Brighton neighbourhood.
Shakamohtaa is the Michif word for “connect” and symbolizes the importance of coming together and building relationships, the city said in a release.
“It is our Michif language that gives us a community, culture, nation, and sense of belonging — all of which makes us Métis,” said St. Pierre, a Métis elder who has lived in Saskatoon for most of her life.
“It’s a good start to learning more about and understanding our Métis people and culture; I look forward to seeing more like this in the future.”
It’s believed to be the first Michif street name in Saskatoon, something Mayor Charlie Clark said was “long overdue.”
“The Michif language is an integral language to this land,” Clark said.
“I am glad we will see the Michif language reflected on this street in Brighton. Imagine the impact for kids growing up in this neighbourhood, living on or near Shakamohtaa Street. They will feel a greater connection to these roots and the beauty of the Michif language.”
According to the Gabriel Dumont Institute, the Métis in Saskatchewan speak three Michif languages. The most widely known is a Cree-French mixed language composed of Plains Cree (nêhiyawêwin) with some Plains Ojibway (nakawēmowin) verbs/verb phrases and French (with some English) nouns/noun phrases.
Michif-French — which is a French-based language blended with an Algonquian syntax — and Northern Michif — a Cree-based language with a small number of French word (noun) borrowings — are also spoken in parts of the province.
In 2016, Statistics Canada estimated there were about 1,170 people in Canada who identified as able to speak Michif “well enough to conduct a conversation.”
Last year, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) launched the Future of Michif Program — an initiative designed to encourage more Métis people to speak their traditional language — in partnership with Canadian Geographic, a magazine published by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.