“I wish my eyes could touch the stars.”
That was the sentence that inspired a new book called ᑕᓂᑲᑕ which translates to “I Wish” in English.
Bonnie Loewen and her 9-year-old Cree/Dene daughter Ajah live in the Blumenort area.
When Ajah joined the Loewen family, Bonnie says they listened for ways to reconcile their harsh settler past with Ajah’s Cree/Dene story and language became one bridge.
Loewen notes together they have been learning the largely forgotten Cree language from their mentor Grace Schedler who she met through Circles for Reconciliation. This is an organization that brings First Nation, Inuit, and Metis people together with non-indigenous people.
In 2020, Bonnie wrote I Wish, inspired by a conversation she had with Ajah. Then, Marlowe Heinrichs illustrated Ajah, as the girl depicted in the book.
Loewen says this book is about connection.
“It is building respectful relationships, which is what it means to be a treaty person, by bringing back a language that was taken away. With Ajah in our life, we are interested in bringing back what was taken away in our hard history.”
The book itself is short and poetic and laid out in the format of a kids book. It is largely in Cree with English alongside.
Bonnie and Ajah presented the book at a Blumenort School assembly Thursday. Listen to their touching forward:
Ajah says they’ve come up with a way to let everyone in on the pronunciation and rhythm of the Cree language while reading I Wish.
“You can get your phone out and you can go to camera and there is a QR code there and then you scan it and there is a YouTube video which you can go to and you'll hear me saying Cree.”
Loewen says the book is published by the Indigenous Languages of Manitoba organization.
“Most of the proceeds go back to the Indigenous Languages of Manitoba to promote the language of Cree and to bring back a language that is so beautiful and needs to come back.”
I Wish is available locally at the Mennonite Heritage Village, Ten Thousand Villages, and at the Steinbach Arts Council. It is also being distributed through a number of schools in Manitoba where Cree is being taught.
Loewen says the have a few more similar projects on the go that they hope to publish in the near future.