Hockey Night in Kanata a hit
- Marjorie D.L. Roden | March 25, 2019
In the official Year of Indigenous Languages, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) and Sportsnet joined forces, making Canadian history. On Sunday, March 25th, the NHL game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes was broadcasted in the Cree language. The Cree broadcasting team, two members who are from Saskatchewan, started from the play by play skills of Canoe Lake Cree Nation’s Clarence Iron, and the commentary by Jason Chamakese of Chitek Lake. Before the broadcast took place, these two gentlemen had time to answer a few questions regarding the importance of the broadcast.
“It’s about time that Cree is going to be broadcast live, especially on a professional level,” said Iron.
“Cree is very important, as are all Indigenous languages, and it is very important that we hold onto it and that we never lose it because that’s what keeps us going. Everybody has their own cultural values, but it boils down to languages, and that gives us pride.”
Chamakese added, “I think it’s immensely important, because I know for a fact, even in my own home when we turn on the TV, we watch hockey. My parents still watch it, they like the action but sometimes it’s hard to follow because it’s being broadcast in English. Now to have them watch a hockey game where the play by play is in Cree, and the analysis is in Cree, they are going to love it. It's as much for them as it is for young people as well. I’m sure when these young people hear this, they’ll think ‘Is that ever cool! That’s really neat, I should learn Cree!’”
The positive responses across Canada for the broadcast bodes well for future Cree broadcasts to take place on a more regular basis. When asked about this prospect, both Iron and Chamakese were very positive about this idea, on many levels.
“I could see myself doing more Cree play-by-play, but also it’s opening doors for the next generation. We need some younger blood in there, the kids -- I still do play by play with minor hockey and call it Cree,” said Iron. “Sometimes the kids surround me, they come and listen to me when I am calling, because I just call it right in the stands because they’re kids, and they want to hear their names being mentioned.”
“If I can help somebody out there make an effort not just learning the Cree language, but their own Indigenous language, if they can see that and they can hear that, then if it helps that one person to make those steps towards learning it, then yes, I can definitely see myself doing this again,” said Chamakese. “I always remember something my mom told me. ‘Our language has a spirit, our language is holy, and it will never die.’ That is one of the tanimount important lessons that we have. Our language will never die. There have been efforts in the past to try and eradicate it, and it didn’t happen.”