My undergraduate degree took eight years to complete. I took two years of Cree language at the University of Alberta. The reason I took Cree as a second language was two-fold.
(picture of me in 2004)
First, it was necessary to take a second language course in order to meet the perquisites for the Criminology program I wanted to apply for. I did not want to take the second bi-lingual language of Canada, French, because in my youth I used to hate French class. I was forced to learn French in elementary school. I did not know any French people or anyone who spoke French. I felt I was being forced to do something I did not want to do. That was in my first four years of elementary school. I would sit in class hungry all the time.
Throughout my childhood I was chastised by my parents for eating to much. I was always hungry. I would eat the food they provided and still feel anxious with hunger. Perhaps that is because we were constantly fed boxed food with little nutritional value; or perhaps it was because I was a “bottomless pit” and a “big mouthed biaffron,” as my step-dad liked to call me. Nonetheless, the food I ate left me feeling empty, hungry and anxious. So to quench my hunger I relied on sugar. I became a sugar addict at a young age. In between classes I would take packets of sugar out of my pocket and dump it into my hand. I would throw the sugar into my mouth and then I would chase it back with water from the fountain in the school hallways. I remember being resistant and outright angry that I had to sit in that “stupid class.” My heart would be racing as I licked my lips in search of any left over grains of sugar. The only thing that got me through my classes was the sugar I kept in my pocket; sometimes white sugar, other times icing sugar.
Since I had no interest in French language I decided I would take Latin courses to meet the prerequisites for the Criminology program I wanted to apply to. After registering for Latin class I had an epiphany: “why was I wanting to take Latin?”
I considered Latin because the white supremacist organization I was a member of, World Church of the Creator (now called the Creativity Movement, due to a legal battle over trademark infringement of the name) utilized Latin within their higher ranking members i.e. reverends and supreme leader. As I was only two years out of the grips of addiction at that point and only a year from when I had separated from white supremacists and racist skinheads; I was still facing many issues. I was in midst of an identity crisis. My intuitive thoughts and feelings were that I was best off to avoid Latin as it was to close to the the white supremacist doctrine. If I had truly wanted to leave that life behind me, I had to distance myself from that type of thinking. I grabbed the University of Alberta’s school calendar and looked to see what other options they had for second language courses.
I went through a long list of languages I did not have any interest in. Spanish was the only real interest I had because I had developed a deep attraction to several women with South American accents. After considering that motivating factor for taking a class, I had decided that my attraction of a women’s accent was probably not the best reason to base my decision on. I continued through the list and came across the Plains Cree language. A light went on. I lived on a reserve up north. I stayed in a cabin with two elders in their 90s who barely spoke English, they spoke Cree and Saulteaux (Anishnabe variation [Ojibiway, Oji-Cree]).
As I was not very insightful, and quite ignorant of the depth of my racist programming I thought to myself: “If I took a primitive language like Cree it may benefit me. I am trying to change my thinking. What better way than to challenge myself to take a primitive language with very little words. Maybe I could learn to connect to my more primitive self in order to simplify my intellectualism.”
I was quite full of myself. I was very ignorant. In retrospect, I had an abhorrent and archaic racist worldview that was riddled with paradoxes, oxymorons and contradictions. My thinking that Cree was “primitive” was grossly misinformed. I am ashamed of myself when I think back to that type of thinking, which I had for most of my life. It is embarrassing to know that I had even lived on Indian Reserves, my close friends had been First Nations, and yet I still viewed ‘them’ as wild indians that hunted with bow and arrows and barely able to speak. I was programmed by the society I was raised in to have an inherently racist perspective of indigenous peoples. After considering my thoughts at the time, I also had another pivotal consideration that led me to selecting Cree as a second language.
(picture of me in 2004)
When I was thirteen years old my Kohkum took me in. She gave me a home. She had never abused me. Neither did her daughters. The women in the Lalonde family were the most caring women I had ever known. They loved me, even when after I had dedicated my life to right wing extremism. I was not biologically attached to the family, but they treat me like they do the rest of the family. Even though I am not in close contact anymore the community network they have spreads across western Canada. Everywhere I go, I meet and see people tied to the Lalonde family. They know my personal story, or at least general pieces of it. I had even gone to a friends family christmas dinner in another city only to find out that one of my Auntie’s from the Lalonde family was close with the people I was dining with. I was, and am, welcomed and loved by people all over western Canada due to the fact that Kohkum took me in when I was young and loved me like no one else would.
Decidedly I enrolled in the Cree class. I ended up taking two years of the Cree language classes at University of Alberta. The class began by conversations between students and teacher; first we learned about one another. We did not even engage with Cree language until we got to know one another first. We got to know and trust each other. Even people from my class knew Kohkum, who lived in another province. She is a respected Elder and Matriarch.
As the class went on, I realized and experienced many profound personal and social transformations. The lessons I received from the Cree class are too long to list. I will emphasize these lessons within my future studies and autobiographic writings. For now, I am going to share with you one of the first assignments I was able to put together within the first year of my Cree studies.
Please take into consideration that I am NOT fluent in Cree language; I am not a Cree speaker; I do not represent the Cree language, culture, nor people; I am not claiming that this is a perfectly contextualized example of Cree language or literacy…but…
This is something I am proud of accomplishing. It took everything I had to not cry in gratitude when I stood in front of a class of indigenous students who welcomed me, even with my hateful past, and to give me the opportunity to grow and learn and unlearn my racist ideology. The students, professors, language holders, and Matriarchal Elders who taught me in those two years have profoundly affected my life today; more than a decade later. The work I do would not be possible without the inherent lessons I had learned from the students and teachers and the beautiful structure of inherent teachings built into a dynamic and complex language system of the Cree peoples. Throughout my learning process I had two close friends, who are my brothers now. They supported me and helped me throughout my time in the Cree language courses. These men are spiritual support for me.
Everywhere I go both Chief Jerry Goodswimmer and Gary Moostoos walk with me. I can hear their lovingly teasing comments about my learning and bastardizing their language. I can hear their laughs and see their beautiful smiles. These two men have profoundly impacted my life. They taught me love and had more patience for me than I think I have had for anyone or anything. They worked with me and mentored me to unlearn my racist mind. They also know I am still on this path, and I am doing the best I can. Gary had gifted me with the most valuable gifts I had ever received in my life.
(picture of me in 2005)
He showed me the truth about love and acceptance. My Kohkum, my Aunties, Gary, and Jerry…all of you…I love you and respect you. I thank you with deep gratitude for the roles you played in my life and the lessons you offer me even when you are not physically present.
Cree Language Biography
June 2, 2004
Nitisîyihkâson Daniel Clayton Gallant. Nîya nîstotanaw kekâtahtosâp kayâ sihaskiya. Nikînihtâwikinihk Spirit River, Alberta.
Nikîwîkinihk nisto provinces. Nohtâwiy Geoffrey Stanley Thomas, kikînipin. Kînihtâwikiw Walesihk. Kînipiw kekâmitâtahtosâp kikîhitahtopiponew. Kikînipiw Spirit River-ihk, Alberta. Nimihtatnipihâw nohtâwiy nipimohtehon.
Nitayâwâwak newo awâsisak. Peyak nitânis, Jessica Amy Rex, ohci nistosâp itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw White Rockohk, British Columbia. Peyak nitânis, Madisson Lynn Gallant, nikotwâsik itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw Fort Saint Johnihk, British Columbia. Peyak nitânis, Daryan Patricia Gallant, newo itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw Chetwyndihk, British Columbia. Nikosis nîso itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw Dawson Creekohk, British Columbia. Mâka epeyakoyân ekwa nimihtâtâwak nitawâsimisâhak. Nikîhayâwâw peyak atim, kitisîyihkâson Tyrus, nikotwâsik itahtopiponew.
Nikîhitohtân peyakosâp kiskinohamâkot’kamikwa pâmayes ayinânew ehayamihtâyân. Pâmayes nikîtitahtopiponân tepakohposâp nikîwîkin ohci nîso askîya kipahotô kamikohk. Nikamaciapacihtânminihkwewin ekwa nikîmâcikon’tamisiwepayihcikewin pâmayes ehitahtopiponeyân nistosâp. Papâmi nikîtitahtopiponân nîsotanaw nikotwâsikosâp nikîmâcihiyinîhkah. Nikîwâpamâwak mistahihowîcihtâsowak.
Nikîmôniyâwohpikin, nikîtâpwewakeyimâw môniyâwak ayâwewak sôhkisiwak ekwa tipeyihcikâte nehiyawaskîwin ekwa nehiyawayisiyiniwak. Ninisitaweyimâw nipakwatamawâw. Nikocîkweskînâw. Nikakweskînâw. Nikîkweskînâw. Nitatamihâw, nikahawîyakmâmawôhkamâton. Nikehtinâw ekosi ayisiyinîw.
Nikatahkamnehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosin. Nicîhkesten nikiskinohamâson. ay ay.
My name is Daniel Clayton Gallant. I am 29 yrs old. I was born in Spirit River, Alberta. I lived in 3 provinces.
My father is Geoffrey Stanley Thomas, he had died. He was born in Wales. He died at age 19. He died in Spirit River, Alberta. I grieved the loss of my father through my life.
I have four children. My one daughter, Jessica Amy Rex, is 13 yrs old. My 1 daughter, Madisson Lynn Gallant, is 6 yrs old. My one daughter, Daryan Patricia Gallant, is 4 yrs old. My son, Kieron Geoffrey Joseph Gallant, is 2 yrs old. But I live alone and I miss my children. I had one dog, his name is Tyrus, and he is 6 yrs old.
I went to 11 different schools by grade 8. Before age 17 I lived in jail for about 2 yrs. I started to abuse alcohol, and I started to abuse drugs before age 13. About the age of 26 I started to heal. I saw many social workers.
I grew up like a white person. I did believe white people had power and controlled Cree land and Cree people. I recognize my hate. I try to change. I have changed. I am indebted to helping all people. I respect all people.
I will continue to learn Cree. I enjoy my teacher thank you.
Môniyâwohpiki: AI- grew up like white person,
Pimohteho: VA-travel through life, live one’s life
Mihtat: PRE-V PART.-grieved
Tâpwewakeyim: TA-believe in
Môniyâs: AI- white people
Ayâw: TA- to have plural
Sôhkisi: AI-power or powers
Tipeyihcikâte: II-to control or govern-ii
Nisitaweyim: TA- recognize
Pakwatamaw: TA- hate,dislike
Nikakweskinâw: TA-I will change
Nikîkweskinâw: TA-I have changed
Atamih: TA- indebted
Mâmawôhkamâto: AI- help
Nikahawîyakmâmawôhkamâton: AI- I will help anyone
Ayisiyinîmwak: TA-people (plural)
Nehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosi: AI- to learn cree
Nikatahkamnehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosin: AI- I will continue to learn cree.
Kiskinohamâso: AI- to be taught
This piece is written by feminist activist Danielle Paradis. She was assisting Chevi Rabbit today, who had organized From Hate to Hope rally. After Chevi suffered the trauma of a hate crime he organized two consecutive years of a successful and necessary event. I was honoured to be a part of this walk.
The man who embraced me was my brothers: former Chief Jerry Goodswimmer and Gary Moostoos.