Ahenakew, Freda

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Ahenakew, Freda

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Freda I. Ahenakew, a Cree woman, was born on February 11, 1932, at home on Ahtahkakoop First Nation, Saskatchewan. The second of eight children born to Edward and Annie (nee Bird) Ahenakew, Freda spent her childhood on Ahtahkakoop where she attended the Sandy Lake Day School. As a teenager, Freda lived in Prince Albert where she attended the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute, and resided at St. Alban's Residence. In 1951, Freda married Harold Greyeyes from the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and together they had twelve children (Dolores Carol 1951, Brenda Vivian 1952, Barbara Ruth 1954, Harold Dennis 1955, Judith May 1957, Anita Elaine 1958, Lawrence Edward 1959, Gloria Lynn 1960, Kevin Ray 1962, Spencer Garth 1963, Nancy Cecile 1972, and Josephine Marie in 1975). As a result of her marriage, Freda became a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. In the early years of their marriage, Freda and Harold lived on both the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and the Ahtahkakoop First Nation. To earn extra income, Harold went to work in British Columbia in the lumber industry. In the fall of 1956, Freda and four of their children accompanied Harold to British Columbia, where in 1957 their fifth child Judith May was born. The family returned to Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in 1959 where they began operating their own small mixed farm. In 1979, Freda returned to school and received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan. That same year she was the recipient of the Mother of the Year award from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). In 1979, Freda's marriage to Harold Greyeyes ended. Freda began her teaching career on the Lac La Ronge First Nation in 1979 and taught there for one year. Freda also taught at the Saskatoon Survival School (now the Joe Duquette High School in Saskatoon) for the 1980-1981 school term. Freda then moved to Winnipeg to study at the University of Manitoba where she received her Masters of Arts in Cree Linguistics in 1984. Freda's published thesis Cree Language Structures has been reprinted seventeen times. From 1983-1985, Freda worked as an Assistant in Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, she then became the Director of the Saskatchewan Indian Language Institute from 1985-1989. Freda returned to Winnipeg in 1990 where she began work as an Associate Professor of Native Studies at The University of Manitoba and was appointed Head of the Department of Native Studies until 1995. Freda returned to Saskatchewan in 1995 to work as a First Nations Language Consultant to the Prince Albert Grand Council until she retired in 1997. Throughout her career as an educator Freda has worked to preserve the Cree language. She has authored a number of books including kohkominawak otácimowinawáwa (Our Grandmothers' Lives, as Told in Their Own Words), kwayask é-ki-pé-kiskinowápahtihicik (Their Example Showed Me the Way: A Cree Woman's Life Shaped by Two Cultures) and wisáhkécáhk (Flies to the Moon). Freda has also translated various children's books and produced a number of textbooks and technical dictionaries. Her contributions have helped ensure the survival of the Cree language and culture. Freda has received many awards and honours for her contribution to education and the preservation of the Cree language and culture. These include: the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Citizen of the Year (1992), an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Saskatchewan (1997), the Order of Canada (1998), National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Education (2001), and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (2005). Freda is now retired and living on Muskeg Lake Cree Nation where she enjoys spending time with her many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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