Oki nitsinihka’sim Ikkinainihki (Gentle Singer). Oki, my name is Debbie Many Bears, a member of the Kainai tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy. I belong to the Aakaipokaiksi (Many Children) maternal clan and Mo’toisspitaiksi (All Tall People) paternal clan and the Ni’taitsskaiksi (Lone Fighters) clan through marriage.  My husband Mokakin (J. Warner Many Bears) and I have been married for over forty-four years and have 5 children, 15 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.

My grandmother, Siipikkitstaki (Night Offering Woman) (Mary Many Chiefs) gave me my Blackfoot name and in later years when I was an adult, she told me the story of the origin of the name. Blackfoot is my first language, I grew up in a traditional upbringing with both paternal and maternal grandparents, and niitsi’powahsin was the only language that was heard and spoken at home during my childhood. During my western education schooling, English became my second language, however, I never lost my Blackfoot language. Throughout the years of raising our family, I took evening and later online courses working towards my dream of obtaining a degree. I was encouraged by my husband and children to go back to school full-time to complete my educational endeavours, since four of our five children had all graduated from high school and pursuing their own dreams.

I have presently completed my 4th year in a 5-year program of a combined degree of B.A. and B.Ed. with my majors in Social Sciences and Indigenous Education. I have worked as a Blackfoot Language and Culture Instructor for at least twenty years and have enjoyed working with the youth. I used the Blackfoot epistemology and Land-based learning to instill a connection to the land and language to the students. There were many cultural and language projects that I developed with others to use in the classroom. I worked with a group of Language instructors to develop a Blackfoot Language & Culture curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 12, with the guidance of Dr. Linda Pelly, with her extensive experience in this area.  We worked on scaffolding the curriculum from grade to grade.

I feel that I have come full circle in my life and educational journey as I am now working with Inge Genee, as a research assistant for the Blackfoot Dictionary archiving project. I feel very humbled with the idea of immersing myself in this project and working with the language in such a personal and familiar setting. I am looking forward to learning more about writing the Blackfoot language because I have always been intimidated with the writing process. I am confident in speaking it, but writing it is foreign. So, this project will give me knowledge and teachings that will provide me with the confidence as I move forward with my educational goals and wherever Creator brings me and my family.