This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.
There are many initiatives around the world raising awareness about COVID-19 but this one is taking the mission to new heights.
Kahkakiw [Ka-Ka-Cue], the Cree word for raven, was created by puppeteer Samson Hunter, who is using Kahkakiw to teach Cree in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.
University of Manitoba professor Steph McLachlan, who is part of the initiative, thought it would be a good idea to use the raven to teach about the novel coronavirus.
He said the group wanted to get accurate information from health professionals to people through a unique approach.
We thought the messages would be “kind of funny and humorous, that would be kind of grounded in Cree language and Cree culture.”
Ramona Neckoway, a professor at Manitoba’s University College of the North, said getting information to Indigenous people in their own language is an important part of the project.
“We do want to get some of the key information … in an Indigenous language … so we can help get messaging around prevention across or into the community.”
One of the people working behind the scenes is Elder Phyllis Hart, also of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.
She believes being able to do these videos at such an important time is another opportunity to show how important language is to Indigenous people.
“It’s sort of like a code that we use to communicate with others about our traditions, our culture, everything about the Cree people,” she said.
“It’s also a spiritual language and I like to capture those things before they’re all gone or you know they don’t have any Cree speakers.”
The group of individuals working on this project have a Facebook group and website under the name COVID-19 Indigenous, where the videos are uploaded weekly.