By Myrna Hewitt, Executive Vice-President, Marketing & Community, Affinity Credit Union
Many of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our language disappearing, especially if we speak English. But, it does happen.
One of the enduring effects of the residential school system in Canada is that it severed the language ties connecting First Nations peoples to their culture and history. The natural passage of language from generation to generation was interrupted by the residential school system, and as a result we’re left with an urgent need to protect and preserve First Nations languages all across the country, or we could lose them.
The Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (SICC) works to fan the flame of First Nations languages in this province, preserving a fundamental part of the province’s history and culture.
We’re excited at Affinity Credit Union to provide funding to help the SICC continue on this important mission. They work with eight different languages spoken in the province: Plains Cree, Swampy Cree, Woodland Cree, Dene, Nahkawē, Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. For us, it’s an honour to embark on this partnership with the SICC, and a privilege to have a role to play in preserving these languages for future generations.
On March 21, 2016, we officially celebrated this partnership with a traditional sweat attended by Affinity executives and SICC representatives, followed by a pipe ceremony and a feast at Affinity’s Saskatoon head office.
One part of our agreement with the SICC involves translating the Affinity story and our co-operative values into First Nations languages, starting with Dakota and Plains Cree. By telling our story in First Nations languages, we want to show our support for the preservation of Indigenous languages and highlight the similarities between First Nations and co-operative values. This partnership with SICC is one way, that as an organization, we’re developing a better understanding of the history and culture of First Nations people in Saskatchewan.
The trick to protecting a language is having people learn it, speak it, read it and write it. The SICC does this every day, and through our funding partnership and the soon-to-be-translated Affinity story, we’re honoured to do our part to help in that effort!
At a National Reconciliation Gathering in Winnipeg on March 11, 2016, Affinity Credit Union made a commitment alongside Vancity Credit Union from BC and Assiniboine Credit Union from Manitoba to work toward meaningful reconciliation. This commitment grew out of a call from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the business community in this country to participate in the reconciliation process. We consider it an important responsibility to play our part in reconciliation.
Our partnership with the SICC is made with an eye toward advancing this cause, and we invite all individuals, credit unions and organizations to join in this journey of healing and reconciliation. Co-operatively, we can build a better Canada.
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Myrna joined the Affinity Credit Union executive team in 2012. She has provided marketing communications, community relations and corporate responsibility leadership for numerous Canadian co-operatives, as well as Sasktel, Saskatchewan’s provincial telecommunications company. Myrna lives and breathes co-operative values. They guide her in her work with Affinity and serve as a foundation for the credit union’s commitment to reconciliation.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and may not reflect the views and opinions of Reconciliation Canada.