Hello! My name is Shelby Johnson. I am going into my fourth year at the University of Lethbridge and I am pursuing my Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education in English with two disciplinary streams of Native American Studies (NAS) and Philosophy. I first gained an interest in Native American Studies when I took the introductory NAS 1000 course with Don McIntyre. I have always had a fascination with languages but his course is what peaked my interest in the revitalization and preservation of traditional Native languages. I first heard about Dr. Inge Genee’s Blackfoot Language Resources and Digital Dictionary project in the Fall 2016 semester while I was enrolled in Shelley Stigter’s NAS 2600 course on Native Literature. I did not know much about the Blackfoot language and culture but I knew I wanted to learn more. I was immediately drawn towards Dr. Genee’s project because it seemed like an amazing opportunity to learn more about the Blackfoot.
During the summer of 2017 I have been working directly with Dr. Genee and through the Applied Studies program at the University of Lethbridge to contribute to the Blackfoot dictionary. I was interested in helping in any way possible but after Dr. Genee and I discussed some preliminary options, I immediately became passionate about focusing on residential schools and the use and learning of languages in those institutions. My work on residential schools will be adapted into a web page on the dictionary, allowing any user access to information on residential schools and the Blackfoot language. I am working towards my combined degree in the Arts and in Education so it seemed only fitting that I worked on a project that closely related to the field of education. Learning about the history and legacy of residential schools in relation to language has been an incredible experience. It has taken me one step closer to my goal of becoming a teacher who is non-Native, yet still well educated in Native American Studies. I truly believe that this project will be a great asset and guide for anyone looking to advance their knowledge of the Blackfoot language and culture. This dictionary will be a resource I use in the future to educate my students about the beautiful language native to Southern Alberta.
I was born and raised in Southern Alberta and I think it is crucial that I continue to actively participate in learning more about the Blackfoot culture and language. I have learned so much while working with Dr. Genee, fellow university students, and volunteers. I feel incredibly honoured to have been given the opportunity to work alongside them this summer.