Cree professor recognized with a Saskatchewan Order of Merit

Saskatchewan Cree professor of 38 years believes there is a rise of Indigenous speakers especially in Saskatchewan, despite StatsCan's recent census data that shows a decline. Cree Literacy website

A residential school survivor from northern Saskatchewan is being recognized with the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for his long-time work in the Cree language revitalization.

His years of work did not go unnoticed by his students and peers.

“A couple students and a colleague wrote letters in support for the Saskatchewan Order of Merit,” said Solomon Ratt, who is a Cree Language Studies Associate Professor at the First Nations University of Canada. “It’s great. It’s a great recognition.”

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Ratt, who attended the residential school in Prince Albert as a child, remembers being unable to speak his Cree language. And, like many other residential school survivors, Ratt lost a lot from the colonial institution system. However, his parents continued to speak their Cree language when he returned home during the summer months.

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“Many people lost their language in the residential schools,” he said. “But I am one of the fortunate ones that kept the language.”

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As the years went on, Ratt continued to speak his Cree language. He started teaching Cree in schools but realized there weren’t many resources out there for educators.

“When I started out teaching, there was hardly any materials available for us teachers to use, so I developed a lot of materials throughout the years for other people to use,” he said.

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That is when he began his writing Indigenous language literature and became involved in building Cree revitalization resources using online platforms. It was his endless work that drove others to see his successful efforts of reclaiming his language.

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“It feels good being recognized for the work I do,” said Ratt.

The Cree revitalizer is amongst six recipients for the Saskatchewan Order of Merit – the province’s highest honour. The ceremony will take place in November with the awards being presented by the Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor, Russ Mirasty.

“The 2021 recipients of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit are remarkable citizens who are most deserving of this prestigious honour,” said Mirasty in a media release. “I offer my sincere congratulations to each recipient and I thank them for their invaluable contributions to our province.”

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Truth and Reconciliation: Preserving and revitalizing Indigenous languages

This year’s other recipients for the Saskatchewan Order of Merit include:

  • Mavis Ashbourne-Palmer
  • Michael Bishop
  • Albert Brown
  • Marie-Anne DayWalker-Pelletier
  • Hart Godden

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