Over the last 30 years, 62-year-old Solomon Ratt has maintained the same passion for teaching, but his methods have changed a lot.
Solomon used to rely on classroom settings to teach students, but today he uses Facebook to tell traditional Cree stories because it reaches more people.
Solomon graduated with a Bachelor of English in 1985. He was already working at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) when he went on to complete his Bachelor and then Master of Linguistics. He is currently an Associate Professor of Indigenous Languages, Linguistics, and Literature at the First Nations University of Canada.
Back in the late 1980s, Cree was a new program at SIFC and Solomon’s first challenge was finding course materials. Eventually, he was forced to create his own workbooks.
Solomon remembers what Dr. Ahab Spence told him, “If you want to stick to this field, be prepared to stand alone.”
“His advice has helped me to keep on going,” says Solomon. “I share material freely. The Cree language needs to be exposed.”
The Cree stories and legends he included in his workbooks are an important learning tool for his students; they teach respect, honor, child rearing, and social responsibilities.
He knows what it’s like to work alone and helps so that others don’t have to experience the same thing. He edits material for other Cree instructors and supports language programs and festivals.
Some of his early publications include, Cree: A Language Workbook and Woods Cree Stories.
His new publication, Maci Nehiyowewin (Beginning Cree), will be released in 2016. Solomon says the illustrations are from former student Holly Martin, which began from her doodling in her class notebook.
In order to engage youth, Solomon knows students need to enjoy themselves using their language and that means using the tools of their generation, like Facebook. He has over 30 visual and written stories on his profile and on the Cree Literacy Network online.
“We will see the day where the next generation will teach us the language and teach us the stories,” says Solomon. “To that effort, I continue creating materials as we go along.”