Norman Fleury

Living language

At the heart of it all, Norman Fleury is an avid storyteller, tirelessly sharing his culture and language with everyone he meets.

"I grew up with it," he said of Michif, a Métis language spoken across the Prairies that combines French with Plains Cree. "I heard my language in my mother's womb. I heard it when my grandmother was delivering me. I heard it when I grew up."

Born in St. Lazare, Man., the sixth-generation "qualified, bona fide Michif" is known nationally for his efforts to preserve the language. In addition to being active for many years with Métis organizations and Michif preservation groups, he has written several books on the subject—including Canada's first Michif language dictionary—and has even translated documents (ranging from children's books to government documents) to Michif.

He joined the College of Education last June as an elder and special lecturer. He finds it rewarding to teach soon-to-be-teachers the language—"they're the future of Michif teachers," he said.

He also works with a host of community partners (such as Westmount School, the Gabriel Dumont Centre, and the Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre) to teach Michif and tell others about his culture, history and heritage.

"In teaching Michif, I'm able to talk about the cultural components of the language," he said, "because language is culture and culture is language. Language incorporates everything."

His next project is to develop a Michif language certificate for the college. "That's one of my big jobs," he said. He is also interested in expanding the curriculum for Métis and Michif languages and culture at the U of S.

If his passion for his language is any indication, it is a job he will be happy to take on.

"We have to get busy. And that's what this institution, with my participation, will do—to understand, really, who are these people?"

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