By Clint Buehler
“Lifetime Achievement Award” has a special meaning when the Rev. Dr. Stan Cuthand is the recipient.
Over his 90 years, Stan has had several careers—sometimes more than one simultaneously—and has had a significant impact with all of them. His many contributions are woven into the very fabric of the history and development of the province of Saskatchewan, and particularly of its Aboriginal people.
In 1944, at a time when the only opportunity for an Aboriginal person to obtain a university education was to join the clergy, Stan gained a Bachelor of Theology from Emmanuel College in Saskatoon, was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church and would serve at missions throughout Saskatchewan, and at the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta, over the next 25 years.
In 1969 he joined the Department of Indian Affairs as Liaison Officer of Community Affairs, then Regional Superintendent of Community Affairs. In 1970, he was hired by the Alberta Department of Education and spent five years there developing a Cree curriculum.
That recognition of his passion for preserving the Cree language, and his expertise in it, opened the door to a new career when he was invited as a visiting professor at the University of Calgary and the University of Regina, teaching and developing Cree language programs. He also began work on curriculum development and translation of health and education materials, as well as gathering and translation of Plains Cree oral history. He also co-hosted the radio program “North Country Fair” for the CBC and the University of Regina.
In 1975, he became Assistant Professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, teaching Native Studies and Cree while playing a strong development role and eventually becoming department head, and the first to teach Cree at the university level.
Stan “retired” in 1998 as Associate Professor at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now the First Nations University of Canada), but despite quadruple bypass heart surgery several years ago, still works on translation and continues to consult and lecture on Cree knowledge and traditions.
From ministering to many First Nations people in the Anglican Church, Stan went on to become one of the spokesmen for his people in a great many presentations to various levels of government over decades.. From interpreting for Elders and chiefs in meeting with Indian Affairs in his early days, chairing the school committee in Lac la Ronge in the 1940s, to approaching City Hall on behalf of the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre in 1970, to participating in roundtables for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1992-93, his advocacy spanned decades and bridged and bridged cultural and language barriers.
He helped draft the first constitution of the organization that became the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians. His work with the Cree language, both in print and orally, has done much to preserve and enhance the language and the understanding of the Cree culture and history among both First Nations and non-First Nations people, and his work translating the Bible and Bible stories into Cree makes them come alive to Cree speakers.
Stan is knowledgeable in Woods, Swampy and Moose Cree dialects in addition to his own Plains Cree. He also studied Spanish, and spent two years working in Ecuador.
In the course of his career he has created a large body of work, including introductions or commentaries within Stories from Kohkom (2000); The Orders of theDreamed (1998); Voices of the Plains Cree (1995); several scholarly articles and reviews on the Plains Cree culture and history , for example in One Century Later (1991) and Native Studies Review (1990); many translations of technical, legal and environmental impact studies, Treaty rights reports and children’s books. He has also had many stories published in Native newspapers.
Stan is a member of the Canadian Interpreters/Translators Council, the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Saskatchewan, an honorary trustee of the Institute for Society and Humanity, and has been a member of the Native Studies Research Group, the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and the Emmanuel College Council.
He was made an Honourary Fellow of Emmanuel College by the University of Saskatchewan Senate for significant contribution to the church and community, including work translating the Bible; was given an Honourary Doctor of Divinity by St. Andrews College at the University of Saskatchewan and an Honourary PhD by the University of Regina, and was named one of the 100 influential alumni of the University of Saskatchewan on the occasion of the university’s 100th anniversary.
Stan spent many years listening to Cree Elders, all in the spirit world now, who relied on him for expert recording, translation or simultaneous interpretation of their words. This information, for which he was a conduit and a vessel, encompassed spiritual, historical, political, educational and all other aspects of the Cree oral tradition. He also learned much from the Blood people and Elders of southern Alberta and the Indigenous people of Ecuador.