© Eric Bell
Reverend Sam Halkett will be teaching a Cree language class at St. Albans Cathedral every Wednesday beginning Jan. 15.
After years of searching for available funding, St. Alban’s Cathedral has been given a grant that will allow them to offer Cree language classes to members of their congregation as well as the public.
“Since I came to the cathedral in 2010 we’ve been looking for a way to offer classes to help people recover their language at the church, “ Reverend Kenneth Davis said. “I applied to several community organizations in Prince Albert and also to some church organizations and never made the cut.”
Davis received the news last week that they had been granted funds to offer the class from the Anglican Church’s healing fund.
“It seemed like a good opportunity, the healing fund,” Davis said. “It was created as part of reconciliation of wounds from the residential school days. And because the recovery of language is a recovery of things that were lost (in the schools) I think that this kind of met their criteria.”
While Davis originally intended the classes to be for First Nation’s people to learn their traditional language, he says that the church has received many inquiries from non-First Nations people as well.
“My heart’s desire was that the people that I had been meeting in our cathedral family and in Prince Albert that really lament the loss of their language, that it would really be for them. But the people who have phoned to register so far aren’t First Nations.”
Classes start on Jan. 15 at 5:30, and Davis says that everyone is welcome. Classes will be held every Wednesday except during the summer months.
Reverend Sam Halkett of Little Red River Cree Nation will be instructing the class. Halkett says he looks forward to reconnecting people with their language.
“This is a central gathering place for people to come and learn and interact in their own language,” Halkett said. “I’ve had opportunities before to teach language over the years and it’s great to be able to come down and teach this class.”
Halkett describes his teaching style as very “hands on,” and says that he will be teaching First Nations customs and traditions along with Cree. The class will also share a home-cooked meal before they begin each week and Halkett hopes to set up a teepee in the church hall.
Having a class that helps connect First Nations people with their heritage is important for St. Albans. Half of the church’s congregation is of First Nations ancestry.
“I think that it’s, in terms of a worshiping community off-reserve, one of the largest gatherings for First Nations” Davis said. “The proportion of First Nations people have been steadily growing in our congregation, I expect it to continue to grow. We’re very proud that this is a multicultural church.”