WEATHER ALERT

La lang di Michif ta-pashipiikan

That means, 'The Michif language will survive.' Perhaps it's true.

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CAMPERVILLE, MAN. — Seated in the living room of her tiny, impeccably ordered house, Grace Zoldy takes a little girl’s hand and begins a language lesson.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/09/2010 (4344 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CAMPERVILLE, MAN. — Seated in the living room of her tiny, impeccably ordered house, Grace Zoldy takes a little girl’s hand and begins a language lesson.

“La viande,” the woman says, her hazel eyes dancing under a fringe of silver bangs. “That means meat.”

“Deux poisson,” she says next, a nod to the goldfish circling a nearby tank. The little girl likes to come watch them. “Two fish.”

RUTH.BONNEVILLE@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Grace Zoldy is passing on the Michif language to four-year-old Billie-Dawn.

The sounds are familiar to anyone who took elementary-school French. But Zoldy is not French, and her words aren’t either: they are something rare, something studied in universities in countries that Grace, when she was learning these words as a toddler in Camperville, didn’t know existed.

This is Michif, the language of the Métis. In its oral DNA, it carries the history of Manitoba and the bloodline of the Métis themselves: Michif’s nouns, like the ones Zoldy shared with that little girl, come from French. Its verbs, however, come from Cree.

It’s one of only a handful of languages like it in the world, and Grace Zoldy is one of only a handful of speakers left to share it.

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Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin
Reporter-at-large

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Ruth Bonneville

Ruth Bonneville
Photojournalist

As the first female photographer hired by the Winnipeg Free Press, Ruth has been an inspiration and a mentor to other women in the male-dominated field of photojournalism for over two decades.

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