The book, which was launched on October 29, is called Woods Cree Stories. Soloman Ratt, says the book, which contains nine stories, is now part of a bigger project that is intended to preserve the languages of the First Nations of Canada.
Soloman Ratt teaches linguistics in Regina’s First Nations University. The story book that he wrote, which contains 138 pages, includes translations of the Cree stories in English to ensure that everybody will be able to understand and appreciate the stories better.
He says it is essential to bring the language back. One way of preserving the language is to make a text version of an oral language. Cree is one of the 60 languages of the First Nations and like most of them, is an oral language. Ratt said that oral story-telling in Cree cannot be understood by everybody. They would be providing the service, with the University of Regina Press planning to publish a book for each of the 60 native languages of Canada’s First Nations.
Creation of the book
The Woods Cree Stories project was completed over a two-year period. It includes the stories written in Cree and in English and the Cree syllabics. Soloman Ratt said that the Cree resources were hard to come by so they had to create the stories in his classes at the university. It was painstakingly hard work for him because there are only a few people today who are able to write in Cree and there are no books to be used as reference. Writing the stories in Cree syllabics was very difficult as well. There are also only a few elders today that are able to read the syllabics, which includes the author’s mother.
He also mentioned the difficulty he and his colleague, Arok Wolvengrey encountered in finding fluent Cree speakers that are also able to translate the language into English. But still, he was very pleased with the outcome of their work because he knows that schoolchildren in elementary and high school will be able to appreciate the stories and learn the Cree language.
Soloman Ratt is currently involved in three new book projects. He is in the process of creating a syllabics book, a work book as well as a grammar book in Cree. He will be including 10 original stories that he had written in the syllabics book. He is looking into the future and wishing that the latter generations will also endeavor to preserve the nation’s various indigenous languages, much like what the Hebrews did with their language.
He also mentioned that the Cree language is handed down through storytelling. However, today, the storytelling is being done in English and not in Cree, which is helping spread the stories but leaves the Cree language behind.