Passport change will help preserve Indigenous names, language, says Gimli man

For Cameron Adams keeping traditional Indigenous names and languages alive in Manitoba is important, because he said it is a way to preserve something that the system tried so hard to take away.

“So many people during their time at residential schools were given Christian names and those names have stuck for generations, and that’

The decision stemmed from a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 that asked governments to allow survivors and their families the opportunity to restore names that were changed as a result of the residential school system.

Because of his own Indigenous background and curiosity about his culture, Adams has spent years studying and researching Indigenous languages and learning to read some of those languages, focusing specifically on the Swampy Cree language.

He hopes to turn his passion into a career, as he currently studies Indigenous languages as well as history at the University of Winnipeg, and hopes to find a career teaching and spreading Indigenous languages.

Adams said that, as time passes, traditional Indigenous names and languages are at risk of being forgotten, and that is not something he ever wants to see happen.

[caption id=“attachment_637119” align=“alignnone” width=“958”] Through his work to spread Indigenous languages Cameron Adams, right, got the chance in 2020 to meet Clarence Iron, left, who is the first person ever to do play-by-play of a nationally televised NHL game in the Plains Cree language.[/caption]

“There’s been a lot of names and languages that have been lost, and that is through systemic failure,” Adams said. “There has been the failure of the Indian Act, and the treaties and the biggest failure being the residential schools.”

Adams said he knows there are some who left residential schools and would not even share their languages or traditional names with their own children because they were taught to be ashamed of them.

“They were scared to share their language because they were worried their kids would actually go through what they went through if they learned it,” Adams said. “They actually hid it to protect their children.”

In the announcement the federal government said that the changes will apply to all First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in Canada, and all fees that would typically be associated with the changing of names on passports, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards will be waived.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
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