William Dumas [Rocky Cree] strives to save the stories and languages of his ancestors through a book series called “Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw ?thiniwak.”
The Manitoba, Canada author wants to engage people of all ages with his books, so they still have access to traditional stories. “It’s a learning experience for children to read about how Rocky Cree lived 350 years ago,” Dumas describes. Still, Dumas’s primary objective is to save his ancestors’ ancient language, so it doesn’t risk going extinct.
Striving to Save a Dying Language
Dumas’s stories tell a narrative based on each of the six seasons recognized in the tribe’s northern territory (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Freeze-Up, and Break-Up). By incorporating several ties to the Rocky Cree heritage, Dumas hopes to offer a more unique way to preserve a dying language, which has become increasingly prevalent.
“I find that young people are starting to see the reality and that 40-year-olds are starting to see the reality of what loss of language means,” Dumas observes.
Regarding his inspiration, Dumas discloses that his idea for the books came after he realized his people’s language and cultural practices were eroding before his eyes.
Dumas realized that after the fluent speakers of the Rocky Cree tribe eventually pass away, there won’t be anyone to carry on the tribe’s stories. Therefore, recording them in storybooks is an excellent way to preserve such a sacred part of their culture.
Additionally, Dumas’s books address the current reconciliation occurring throughout Canada and the United States for the Indian residential boarding schools. Many people are unaware of the multi-generational effects these boarding schools have had.
However, Dumas has first-hand experience, having attended one of these schools for 11 years. So the content incorporated into Dumas’s book has an elevated level of authenticity and relevance.
Significant Cultural Impacts
The cultural significance of Dumas’s work has long-lasting effects. By preserving the Rocky Cree language and its traditional stories, Dumas ensures invaluable parts of his people’s culture remain intact.
Several Indigenous tribes in both the United States and Canada are in danger of losing their original language. And there are fewer and fewer individuals capable of accurately preserving this integral part of a tribe’s heritage.
Also, the fact that Dumas is preserving Rocky Cree traditions in such a creative way makes learning the tribe’s culture more entertaining for all those interested.