King loved his mother tongue and urged his students not to treat it like an artifact, but to treat it like a living language.

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Last week we lost a much-loved educator who played an important role in the movement for Indigenous control of our education.

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Cecil King was born in Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. in the beautiful Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. First Nations reserves have informal settlements and his was called Buzwah and to complicate matters further his area of ​​Buzwah was called Two O’Clock.

“Wiki” is located on unceded territory and is occupied by the Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples, also known as the Three Fires Council.

King was raised in a family spanning three generations, and his grandparents had a profound effect on his upbringing. He attended the school on the reserve where the teachers were all First Nations.

They believed in the potential of their students and accompanied them during the first eight years of their studies. They left King with the strength and confidence that his people could be teachers.

He attended high school at Garnier Residential School in Spanish, Ontario. Because he was older, he was able to overcome the abuse and bullying that plagued boarding schools. He was older and knew his language.

He said his comrades developed a culture within a culture by speaking their language in secret and used it to circumvent the forces trying to dominate their culture. He was top of his class.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Saskatchewan and his doctorate from the University of Calgary. He adopted Saskatoon and became an important part of the movement for Indian control of Indian education.

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In the early 1970s, there was a major movement across Canada that eventually led to the closing of residential schools and school strikes as parents fought to establish their own schools.

The result was the decision to establish schools on reserves and the need for First Nations teachers was urgent.

King worked with the University of Saskatchewan and developed the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP). Over the years, the institution produced a steady stream of native teachers who took their place in reserve schools as well as in urban schools.

Former students not only taught native students, but were part of the professional landscape of many schools in the city. They stood out as role models and demolished many of the old stereotypes simply by being professionals.

In addition to ITEP, King was also the first director of the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at Queen’s University. He has also developed Ojibway language courses for institutions across North America.

The Ojibway language is part of the Algonquian language group, which covers most of Canada east to the Rocky Mountains, and south to Mississippi and the east coast.

This includes the Crees, Pieds-Noirs, Naskapis, Innus, Abenakis, Gros Ventre, etc. Algonquian is arguably the largest indigenous language group in North America.

Ojibway is called Chippewa in the United States and Saulteaux is also known as Plains Ojibway, but for all people their language is Anishinaabe. This is an example of how colonialism has defined our people into separate compartments.

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King loved his mother tongue and urged his students not to treat it like an artifact, but to treat it like a living language with daily application.

He was honored by his people and the country as a whole. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal as well as the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal. In 2009, he received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his lifetime contribution as an educator.

Earlier this year he released his memoir, The Boy from Buzwah. He wrote: “We need your voices. We need your songs. We need your stories. Because what must be remembered must be said. Our words must reveal the flesh of our culture. Our words must reveal our visions of the world. It is our heritage. It’s our duty.

Last week, at age 90, the last school bell rang and he began his journey to the next world. King may have moved on, but his work lives on in the hundreds of teachers whose lives he touched.

Doug Cuthand is the Aboriginal affairs columnist for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post. He is a member of Little Pine First Nation.

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