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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Lifetime Achiever Credits His Success To Learning Ojibwe In School Playground
by Marci Becking of the North Bay Nugget

ABORIGINAL AWARDS: Honoured for education excellence

Cecil King received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for education excellence Friday night and he says it all started with learning Ojibwe in the school yard.

"In my household, I was raised speaking English. My grandmother was a teacher and believed that I would need English to get along in the world," says King. I learned Ojibwe from my peers at Buzwah School (in Wikwemikong) on the playground. Kohkwehns, a local Elder in Buzwah and a very traditional person -- taught me many traditional things such as medicines. I learned many Ojibwe expressions from her when we would go together to pick medicines, berries or other things which she wanted to teach me.

I have taught the importance of understanding the First Nations view of the world passed down through the language. We cannot know the world of our ancestors without knowing the language because the worldview is embedded in our language. For example, we divide the world into animate and inanimate things and the way we speak of those things is reflected in the grammar of the language.

We learn from the language that we are the most dependent of all Creation. Our view of our place in the universe is not the same as the Judeo-Christian view which puts 'Human beings' next to God. Our language contains the teachings of our culture. When we have to describe our teachings in English we are limited to the words that are available in English. In many cases English is inadequate. We need our languages to tell us who we are. Therefore, it is our belief when a language dies, so does the culture."

King is now a resident Elder at the University of Saskatchewan and has teach Saulteaux/ Ojibwe language and Saulteaux history and vulture at the First Nations University.

I have spent the last 30 years teaching at the universities in Saskatchewan," he says. When I came to Saskatchewan it was to learn in an environment which did not exist in Ontario at the time. Here was recognition of the need for First Nations people to control their own education.

This is really the culmination of my teaching career. To be able to work with the people who will be taking over the development of First Nations education in positions of authority with qualifications equal to those from mainstream society is incredibly rewarding. We are finally in a position to use the educational system to accomplish what we need to do to preserve our languages, cultures and histories."

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