As time passes by, I worry about your future and I ask myself many questions. Will the language be gone? Perhaps in 15 years, when you will be my age, you won’t speak Innu and will, like me, only know the basics? I am afraid for your future. Our language is so fragile, so few people know it or speak it. I can’t say if in 15 years the language, the culture or the spirituality will still be present in our community, things are moving so quickly.Read Shauni-Gaëlle Jérôme 's Chère petite soeur
My name is Shauni-Gaëlle Jérôme and I am 18 years old. I am a student at Manikanetish High School. I am an Innu. I currently live in the Maliotenam reserve. I am the oldest of a family of six. I am a rather well organized and orderly girl. I really like to listen to music. I really love to travel and one day I would like to travel the entire world. I recently registered to the Trois-Rivière Cégep in the Tremplin DEC program, but I want to go into Human Sciences for the following semester.
I wrote a letter to my little sister to raise her awareness of our culture and everything that is happening in the community. I want to prepare her for the future and for what could happen if she is not careful.
November 23, 2015
Dear little sister,
Today, little sister, in this month of November 2015, I am 18, but you are only 2 years old. I am writing to you to let you know how fragile the Innu culture is because it’s slowly getting lost. The youth in our community have lost much of their native language. The youth speak Innu less and less, and they don’t live like our ancestors did anymore. Our parents, your mother and our dad, are talking to you in Innu as much as possible because they want for you and Nathan to speak our language. I, your big sister, who’s watching you grow rapidly, am also trying to speak to you in Innu as often as possible. I am doing my best because I’m also slowly starting to lose the language. Right now, you must be in daycare, and I don’t know if your educators are speaking to you in French or in Innu.
I want to let you know how much things have changed in the last few generations. The young ones don’t hunt anymore. Traditional things, like the sweat lodges, are now a rare occurence. Most people still doing it are between 30 and 40 years old and even older. Traditional medicine still exists but it, too, is starting to disappear. There are only two people in our community still practicing traditional medicine.
A lot of kids are taking drugs and alcohol, and I hope you won’t go down that path because I see too many people destroyed by it. People are starting to use when they’re much younger now. They all say it’s only to try, but they like the feeling so much, they keep “trying” it again and again. They’re addicted. If you saw their faces, skinny, with their pupils completely dilated. Their bodies are so thin. I never want to see you like that.
As time passes by, I worry about your future and I ask myself many questions. Will the language be gone? Perhaps in 15 years, when you will be my age, you won’t speak Innu and will, like me, only know the basics? I am afraid for your future. Our language is so fragile, so few people know it or speak it. I can’t say if in 15 years the language, the culture or the spirituality will still be present in our community, things are moving so quickly.
You must pay a lot of attention to the elders in our community since there are so few of them left. Today’s elders are the only ones who know about our past. How Natives lived in the 1900’s, how Natives came to hate themselves. Take great care of our culture even if today, in 2015, youths don’t really pay attention to what the elders say or do.
Take care of yourself.
Your big sister who loves you,