When I accepted a new assignment at my high school, to facilitate an Adult 12 program for students who have been away from school for over a year or who are at least 19 years old, one of the first things that fired my imagination was the idea of asking Kete-aya Alma Poitras for a name.
When Sandy Pinay-Schindler had visioned a magazine, written by students, to focus on Indigenous peoples and topics, she went to Elder Sam Isaac, took him tobacco, had tea, and he gave her a name for the project, Kitoskâyiminawak Pîkiskwêwak Our Young People Speak. Having seen the beauty this naming brought to our five year magazine project, I wanted to invite this same possibility into our program.
I have taken Kete-aya Alma tobacco to ask for her guidance twice before, once for help with my song, "As Long as the Grass Grows: A Treaty Song from Saskatchewan" and once for help with our Orange Shirt Day, September 30th, 2016 preparations. I texted Alma again, and asked if she would be available to meet with me and accept tobacco for this new request. She agreed.
As always, Alma lead with deep listening. I talked all about my hopes and dreams for this program. Alma accepted the tobacco and then had many insights for me right away. She told me that she would take the tobacco to her sweat lodge and pray for guidance and that a name would come.
At the end of our conversation, she told me that after she gives me a name, I should approach a Dakota elder and a Saulteaux elder to ask for a translation into these other Indigenous languages of the people in our community. With English as a fourth language, this will give us many insights into the potential of the name. It will inspire my leadership and reveal strength in my students.
I will text Alma soon to see if she has had opportunity to proceed with finding a name, but until then, I await this naming, knowing that blessings will follow.
Kete-aya Alma helping me learn four Treaty words in her language:
miyowîcêhtowin, pimâcihowin, wîtaskêwin, wâhkôhtowin