Nihiyaw Awasak: Validation of Cree literacies. An ethnographic study of children at home, at school, and in the community

Barbara Laderoute
Dept. of Elementary Education, University of Alberta
July, 2005


My study is titled 'Nihîyaw Awasak: Validation of Cree Literacies'; it is an ethnographic study of children at home, at school, and in the community. This is a study of Grade 5/6 children, varying in ages of 11 to 14 years, in a small northern Albertan community, and their experience of literacy in a cross-cultural situation. This research has several key implications that I suggest will influence the way literacy is viewed and increase Cree children's success in the educational system. One of the implications is the acknowledgement and validation of what I have defined as Cree children's Indigenous representation of literacy: a symbolic configuration of literacy that is expressive of their own language, culture, values, and beliefs. This Cree representation of literacy was reflected in what I considered a personal voice. This personal reflection of Cree literacy has not been noticed and was not obvious, but I found it mainly in artifacts that I considered from school projects shared through what is called literacy digs in research. This voice of literacy has been hindered in the school setting by a narrow focus of literacy and a concentrated effort towards achievement. I conducted an ethnographic study, and I have described different literacy experiences of the children at home, at school, and at school events in the community. I also conducted a focal study of two children in the home and examined their literacy practices in this setting. This study is significant because few studies have been done that look at the literacy of young Cree children from this perspective. This study in a northern Alberta Canadian setting will contribute to the field of Aboriginal education and will assist educators who are looking for ways to improve the literacy and educational experience of Aboriginal children.