Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

National Aboriginal History Month

National Aboriginal History Month

National Aboriginal History Month

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Honourable senators, in celebration of National Aboriginal History Month, I rise today to recognize and congratulate Cameron Lozinski, a 19-year-old University of Winnipeg Indigenous Studies major from Gimli, Manitoba, who is working to revitalize and preserve Swampy Cree, his ancestral language.

Cameron grew up in Northern Manitoba where Swampy Cree is largely spoken. His mother’s side of the family is Swampy Cree, and his great-grandmother grew up speaking the language. These factors helped to foster within him a great interest in Swampy Cree, which over time developed into a passion to learn and share the language with others.

Early in his youth, with no local speakers to rely on, Cameron turned to books and the internet to enhance his Swampy Cree vocabulary. He found a community of Cree learners in the Facebook group #CreeSimonSays, initiated by Simon Bird, an educator and school principal from Saskatchewan. This Facebook group focuses on teaching Cree dialects of all kinds. As Cameron’s knowledge of the language grew, so did his passion to share the language. For instance, in his last semester of high school, to get his classmates interested, he started translating the cafeteria’s daily lunch specials into Swampy Cree.

Now at university, he continues to expand his linguistic abilities and has become determined to keep the Swampy Cree language, which currently has about 2,500 speakers alive. In determining how to accomplish his goal, the answer to him was obvious — develop an app.

Lozinski said, “People are on their phones reading English all day. I don’t think there’s a lack of interest in learning the language, I think there’s a lack of accessibility. An app would help preserve the language and help bring it up to 2018.”

He’s currently working on creating the first Swampy Cree language app to include modern terminology and a standardized spelling system. Cameron estimates an app of this nature could cost between $20,000 and $80,000 to develop and, accordingly, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to make his dream a reality.

Cameron said, “If I can invest $80,000 to save a language that has been spoken since time immemorial, I think it’s worth every penny.”

I, for one, agree with Cameron. Language is an essential part of what makes us human and is integral to the vitality of a culture. To preserve a language is to preserve a way of life, and I hope you will join me in supporting Cameron in his noble endeavour to do just that.

Thank you, kinanaskomitin.