‘A way to keep our language alive’: How the Atikamekw Nation uses Wikipedia to promote its language

What started out as a high school computer science project has grown into the only active Wikipedia in Canada operating in an Indigenous language.

Wikipetcia Atikamekw Nehiromowin includes over 1,000 articles, sound clips and photos representing life, history and culture of the three Atikamekw communities in Quebec.

“They cover common words, the cities of Quebec, and we also started Atikamekw toponymy [place names] focused on forest animals, vegetation and genealogy of our community,” said Thérèse Ottawa, co-ordinator of the Wikipetcia project since 2017.

“It is a young Wikipedia, and there is still a lot to do.”

The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger lists the Atikamekw language’s vitality as vulnerable, where most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains like at home or at school.

Ottawa said that’s why a project like Wikipetcia is important to give language and culture a presence online where the majority of young people are spending their time using French as a second language.

“Our young people are more inclined to take refuge behind their devices than to go on the territory,” said Ottawa, referring to the direct link between the language and land.

“Hence, the importance of joining them via their technology for the transmission of language and culture. Wikipedia is, in my opinion, an excellent platform for that,” she said.

Read more: CBC

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