In an effort to generate more Cree speakers and promote the importance of Cree as a first language, author Cindy Laroque is putting her Cree/English books in First Nations school libraries across central Alberta, including the Maskwacis Cultural College library.
“Most kids in our community, Cree is their second language,” said Laroque. “It should be their first language.”
“The main thing I want to get out is our language, I want to keep our language alive,” she added.
Laroque speaks Cree fluently but as a child was a day student at a residential school. Because of this she did not teach her own children Cree when they were growing up. “I didn’t want my own kids to go through what I went through. That’s how I see it.”
“It was hard,” she added.
However, Laroque began teaching Cree to Kindergarten to Grade 9 students and found it to be a struggle teaching the different levels.
Although she was fluent in the language she needed to learn to read and write it. She took Cree instructor courses and early child development courses.
Laroque’s first book, Little Red Running Shawl, first began as a school course assignment and she was encouraged to publish it.
It was published in 2011, two years after she wrote it.
Laroque used the same American publishing company for her second and third books but is looking for a Canadian publisher for her next four books.
Laroque’s young children books are written mainly in English with a few key words in Cree to begin introducing the langue to youth. Each book also includes translations for the Cree words.
Her body of work is also available as e-readers.