If you had walked the halls of Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) this Valentine's Day, there's a good chance you would have heard a warm kisâkihitin—Cree for "I love you"—from more than one of the students as they shared a special school-wide Valentine Lunch with their parents and extended family members.
Love was definitely in the air. Aunties, uncles, parents, grandparents, and siblings gathered in the school's dining hall for a lunchtime feast of spaghetti, caesar salad and garlic toast. In preparation for the special family event, cultural studies teacher Janice Clark made sure to incorporate phrases from the Maskwacis dialect into familiar holiday songs they would be performing for their families, including kisâkihitin.
Clark, aware of the importance of gift-giving in her students’ Cree tradition, also incorporated the traditional First Nations arts of wood burning and beading into a Valentine-themed art project for the occasion: beautiful heart-shaped wooden ornaments. Many of these ornaments, which expressed love and thanks in Cree as well as English, were given by students as gifts to friends and family members during the lunch.