My school experience was very different from how I grew up. Dad would take us kids into town on Treaty Days for new shoes and ice cream. Some quiet afternoons we’d sit between mom and dad as they paddled down the Saskatchewan River.” A strong work ethic supported this idyllic life.
Mabel left school determined to raise a family—and become a teacher. “My Dad really wanted me to succeed because he hadn’t been allowed to attend past Grade 8. I had four boys starting elementary school. It was a lot of work looking after my family while going to school.
Mabel became a recognized Elder after a decade enthusiastically promoting the Cree language locally and provincially. “Our language is part of our identity—without it, part of us is lost. Cree is very descriptive with many dialects, depending on where one is from."
Mabel retired from the work place after 30 years in Cree language development. She is now a member of the Elder’s Council of University College of the North. Mabel Bignell is as energetic as ever to maintain her language in a modern society where cultural erosion in commonplace.