Stoney Nakota First Nation
A fluent speaker of her language, Alice Kaquitts believes in her mother’s teaching that language is her identity. She sees it as defining who she is and connecting her to the universe. She communicates in the spiritual realm through her lethka language.
Coming from a traditional family of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, it may not seem that unusual for Alice to hold her lethka language, but it is remarkable. There were three of us who attended residential school within my family, but I am the only one amongst my siblings who attended a post-secondary institution. A common legacy of residential school was the loss of language. Not so for Alice. She is one of the few members of her nation who can read and write in her language. As Native languages were oral, orthographies are recent. Alice served as an interpreter and translator for residential school survivors at residential school hearings. The language is still strong among her people. Over 2,500 members are fluent speakers. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation people are resilient and strong.
Mothers are often our most powerful influencers, and Alice’s was that and more. Alice describes her mother as one of the strongest women she has ever known—she was a ceremonial woman, a healer, a pipe holder, a hunter, and a trapper. She was independent and as Alice says, “she lived her life on her own terms.” Alice carries many of these same roles and responsibilities passed to her from her mother.
During the summer months, Alice returns to her mother’s traditional territory and reconnects to the land. With her relatives, they work, harvest, and hold ceremony, teaching younger family members about their history, culture, and way of life. She portrays the summer months as the most enjoyable for her and her relatives, with evenings around the sacred fire telling stories and singing.
Outside the family circle, Alice has taught lethka Nakoda language to school children, and she has taught traditional parenting to young families within the child welfare system. She shares the wealth from her family with others as part of fulfilling her generational responsibility to her people. She does so with joy and generosity. She lives her life as a prayer.