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Language and Culture (13-17)

Sask. cultural camp using Cree immersion to revitalize language

January 19, 2024

Cree Academy of Excellence program uses immersion, land-based lessons to teach youth their language

kids dressed in winter gear surround a hole in the ice
Students at kâniyâsihk Cultural Camp’s Cree immersion land-based school learning to ice fish. (Submitted by Kevin Lewis)

CBC Indigenous: The kâniyâsihk Cultural Camp’s Cree Academy of Excellence program is using land-based teachings to revitalize language.

The camp has been running for 21 years on Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation, southwest of Meadow Lake, Sask., and was registered as a nonprofit in 2015. It launched its Cree immersion program in 2018.

Kevin Lewis said the camp’s program’s provide opportunities for youth to learn language through land-based teachings. “It’s reminding us who we are, where we come from, how to behave, the relationships that we have with the sun, the relationships that we have with the earth,” said Lewis.

“If you want confident little human beings, teach them their language. Teach them how they act. How they tell jokes. how to tell stories.”

a man in camouflage gear scraping a deer hide at sunset
The kâniyâsihk Cultural Camp teaches youth cultural practices, land-base teachings and language. (Submitted by Kevin Lewis)

He said the camp also show the youth how to dance and keeps them active.

Lewis grew up on Ministikwan Lake and Cree was his first language. He said he was really fortunate to learn from his relatives about important teachings of the land.

The camp staff are all fluent in Cree, meaning youth get to hear the language a lot while learning. “They love learning, they love sharing, but they also love what you have to say genuinely,” Lewis said.

Craig McCallum, fourth vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said the camp’s land-based teachings are an important tool for restoring language. “We’re really starting to push to have language and land work together,” he said.

McCallum said initiatives like this are having a positive effect.

“You’re starting to see language speakers, not language learners anymore, they’re becoming speakers. And so it’s really, really inspiring to see,” said McCallum.


Darla Ponace

Darla Ponace is a Saulteaux woman from Zagime Anishinabek First Nations. She was selected to be a part of the Indigenous Pathways program at CBC. She recently graduated from the University of Regina/ First Nations University of Canada with a diploma in Indigenous Communications Arts. You can email her at with story ideas.