Lac La Ronge Indian Band bringing urban members together over land-based practices, language

Jerry Nelson shapes a paddle in one of several tents set up at the LLRIB’s urban culture days at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation on Sept. 6, 2023. – Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

The Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) is working to ensure urban members stay connected with their traditional, land-based ways of life.

LLRIB councillors, along with the health services’ cultural unit, put on an urban cultures days for members in the Prince Albert area on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Many of our members that live in the city come to get education or employment. When you’re in the city, it’s a disconnect to culture and language,” said Lillian Sanderson, cultural program manager.

“Up north in La Ronge and our other outlying communities, we’re very land-based and a lot of our people are still out on the land, hunting, fishing, gathering.”

Amber Bear teaches Betsy Bird how to bead a dream catcher at the LLRIB’s urban culture days on Sept. 6, 2023. – Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Those Indigenous values were at the forefront of the event at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation. Members could learn about drying bison meat, beading, paddle making, jigging, basket weaving and traditional medicines.

Another important aspect of the culture is the Cree language.

“One of the goals, of course, with our band is to revive our language and be able to pass that on as language keepers, that it’s okay to speak their language. At one time, we weren’t allowed,” said Sanderson.

Chief Tammy Cook-Searson is also fluent in Cree. She said bringing members together helps to ensure the language continues on to the younger generation.

“For me, if I see somebody that’s Cree, automatically I’ll just start conversing in Cree,” she said.

“If there’s people around us, they’ll ask what we’re saying or we’ll see someone we know and they’ll ask ‘How do you say this?’”

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson says language preservation is a crucial element of hosting Indigenous gatherings. – Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Whether it’s language or land-based practices, Cook-Searson said bringing people together promotes their Indigenous culture.

“We have such amazing traditional resource people that are ready and willing to share their knowledge and they want to pass it on, but it takes time and patience for someone to want to learn that,” she said.

Cook-Searson said the LLRIB has roughly 900 urban members in the Prince Albert area.

“It’s a huge population. That’s even bigger than some of our communities.”

LLRIB consists of six communities: La Ronge, Little Red River, Morin Lake, Stanley Mission, Sucker River and Grandmother’s Bay.

Dennis Sanderson cuts up bison meat for urban LLRIB members at their culture days event on Sept. 6, 2023. – Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald