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Young Indigenous man who was known as a Cree ambassador dies

The passing of a young man from Thunderchild First Nation shocks many as he was known as a role model and an ambassador for the Cree language as a fluent speaker. Photo courtesy: Ira Swindler

Davis Swindler from Thunderchild First Nation was a man who spoke the “old Cree” language passed away on April 7, 2022.

His death sent shockwaves across the province as many mourn the life he lived.

The 19-year-old man was raised by his grandparents Ira and Maxwell when he was young. Growing up, the Cree language was all that was spoken at home.

“He was taught by his moshum (grandpa) about hunting, trapping and how to pick medicines in the bush,” said Delbert Wapass, who is the family spokesperson. “He snared his first rabbit at the age of four and had his first kill at the age of nine. His moshum Max taught him the way of the land.”

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Davis’s grandma Ira taught him the values of life. Together, they made social media videos of their Cree dialogues, receiving many views and shares. Those videos were to show others that the Cree language is very much alive and spoken.

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“He was not only fluent in Cree, he would also think in Cree,” said Wapass. “Today, those who are learning the Cree language are thinking in English … he was fortunate to have the teachings of the old Cree. He was an ambassador for his language.”

At a young age, Davis started speaking at schools across Canada and he was invited as a speaker at various conferences including the annual Wîcihitowin Indigenous Engagement Conference held in Saskatoon.

On March 27, 2022, Davis was presented with a beaded vest from Elders in Thunderchild to acknowledge all that he does for his community including hunting and meat-sharing.

“The impact he has for the young people to aspire to learn the Cree language (will) be remembered,” said Wapass. “He’s a big loss because of what he was doing for the Cree language … he was a beautiful young man that offered and did so much in a short life. He’s truly going to be missed.”

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His cause of death has not been determined and family are awaiting results of a coroner investigation.

The wake will be held in Thunderchild on April 8th and the funeral will be on Monday, April 11 at the Chief James Okanee Memorial Centre.

Click to play video: 'How an app may help preserve the Cree language'
How an app may help preserve the Cree language

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