Keeping Coast Salish Languages Strong

March 31st, 2020 by Technology plays an important role in helping Hul'q'umi'num' learners improve their fluency. Agnes Violet Sharon Seymour’s desire to learn Hul'q'umi'num' stretches back to when she was a girl, listening to her father and uncle talk in the Coast Salish language. I wanted to be able to communicate and understand them,” she says. Seymour wants that same generational bond for her son, Luke Jarrett Spaal' Seymour, who is learning Hul'q'umi'num' at school. Seymour, from Kwa'mutsun, a member of Quw'utsun' tribe, is among seven students gathered at the Shhwulmuhwqun Language House in Duncan this morning for a science of speech class. By day’s end, Seymour, whose Hul'q'umi'num' name is Ts'i'y'a lhaat, will have had the chance to use ultrasound, acoustic speech analysis and palatography to hone her pronunciation. University of Victoria professor Sonya Bird leads a team of linguists using these technologies to help Hul'q'umi'num' learners like Seymour improve their fluency in one of the most complex languages in the world. Bird says Hul'q'umi'num' has 37 consonants, 24 of which don’t occur in English, making authentic pronunciation difficult for second-language learners. University and community-based partners, including Hul'q'umi'num' Language and Culture Society and Simon Fraser University, are involved in the project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. They are working against time to transmit knowledge of Hul'q'umi'num' to younger generations. Few first-language speaking Elders remain. Read more: University of Victoria

Talking about the future of teaching Indigenous languages

March 17th, 2020 by The Auditor General’s report on education in the territory released in February painted a dismal picture of Indigenous language education. “After our audit in 2010, the department acknowledged its need to review its policy for Indigenous language and culture-based education. It completed this review in 2014, which found that its model was not leading to fluency for Indigenous students,” the report noted. The numbers of Indigenous language teachers in the territory, relative to the total number of teachers offers one explanation for the low educational results with the territory’s nine Indigenous languages. According to an NWT Bureau of Statistics report from 2014, the most recent year for which official language proficiency data is available, the Indigenous language with the most speakers over 15 years of age is Tlicho, which had 2,235 speakers. Next is South and North Slavey, which had 1,443 and 1,081 speakers respectively. Inuvialuktun had 601 speakers, Chipewyan 562, Gwich’in 335, Cree 275, Inuktitut 201 and Inuinnaqtun had 195. Compared to the report’s findings in 1989, proficiency has declined in some languages, but it has also increased modestly in more than half of them. Language education by the numbers There are 631 teachers working across the territory and of those 70 are Indigenous language educators, Meagan Wohlberg, spokesperson of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) told News/North. Of that group, 53 are teachers (mostly full-time and some part-time) and the rest are educational assistants and Elders who help out in classrooms. Read more: NNSL Media

Author hopes informal lesson book will help turn Indigenous language speakers into language teachers

February 29th, 2020 by An Ojibway language teacher and author is hoping that anyone who can speak an Indigenous language can use her new book to teach others. "It could be used by any group at all — Ojibway, Cree, Dene, Inuktitut — it'll be applicable to any language in the world," said Patricia Ningewance. Ningewance is from Lac Seul First Nation in northern Ontario and her new book is titled Reclaiming Our Territory, Word By Word: Grassroots Language Teaching. The book is meant to help guide fluent speakers, who may not be trained teachers, in how to pass on their language skills on in their families and the community. The book is written in English and lays out 63 lessons that are structured around everyday, practical conversations like 'Where do you live?' 'Where did you go?' 'Who do you love?' With the book, Ningewance is hoping that speakers looking to teach others informally won't worry about whether they can read or write their language, or can explain the grammar. She just wants people to begin to speak the language with others. Inside her new book, Ningewance writes "we fluent speakers will be gone in 20 years or less so we must teach the language to the next generation." Becoming a student again It's been over 30 years since Ningewance released her first book: Survival Ojibwe: Learning Conversational Ojibwe in Thirty Lessons. For years, she has taught beginner/introductory, intermediate and advanced Ojibway courses at the university level and is constantly thinking about better ways to teach the language. Read more: CBC

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

December 11th, 2019 by 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

Ancestral languages are essential to Indigenous identities in Canada

May 31st, 2019 by Recent protests against the federal government’s approach to Indigenous language legislation is the latest manifestation of concern regarding the maintenance and flourishing of Indigenous languages and culture. Although these latest protests are centred around jurisdiction and funding, the fundamental issue for Indigenous peoples is support for an essential part of their identity. My work in the area of Indigenous education and languages leads me to believe what is core to the concern for language support is the meanings and narratives that are reflected in language. The breadth of issues and potential initiatives reflected in the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) cover many areas that are germane to the well-being of Indigenous peoples. The general aim of reconciliation that has emerged from the activities of the TRC is the development of a new relationship amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Such a new relationship must acknowledge harms of the past and their impact into present. It is now clear that the reconciliatory journey must recognize, affirm and follow up on prescriptions for change that aim to rectify many wrongs affecting many areas of the Indigenous peoples’ experience. One of those areas that is of particular interest to educators at numerous levels is that of language and culture. Read more:

After 50 years of the Official Languages Act, what is the place of French in Canada?

May 25th, 2019 by To mark the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act and the International Day of La Francophonie on March 20, an Open Caucus was held at the Senate of Canada to reflect on the place of French in Canada. Professors Stéphanie Chouinard, Michael MacMillan and Benoît Pelletier addressed the following question: What is the place of French in Canada 50 years after the Official Languages Act was first enacted? The good news is that since it was enacted, the presence of the French language within government has become considerably stronger. The federal government passed the Official Languages Act in 1969 to correct a historical injustice that partly manifested itself in the near total absence of francophones within the federal public service. In this regard, the act was a notable success: over 43 per cent of public service positions today are now designated bilingual, and more than 96 per cent of employees in these positions have achieved the required language proficiency, according to a 2017 report by the Public Service Commission's Patrick Borbey and Matthew Mendelsohn of the Privy Council Office. But it's not all good news. Read more:

Alberta teacher races to save dying Indigenous language before time runs out

November 14th, 2017 by A teacher in northern Alberta is racing to piece together a dying Indigenous language before the last few people who speak it are gone. For the past two years, Victoria Wanihadie has travelled the Peace River area to find people who remember the Beaver culture and language. She jots down their memories and records the sounds of words that might otherwise be forgotten. "I think this is my purpose," said Wanihadie, a part-time high school teacher and Indigenous educator in Grande Prairie, Alta. "Our stories haven't been told, and I want to share our history with others." Eighty people in Alberta reported they can speak Beaver, according to 2016 census data released in October by Statistics Canada. Fewer than 50 identified the language as their mother tongue. "We have to find a way to bring the language back to this area," Wanihadie said. "So that we can all heal from the past." Wanihadie grew up in the hamlet of Grovedale, Alta., believing she was Cree. Her parents rarely spoke about their Indigenous roots. "My parents moved away from the reserve and they did not share their Beaver history with us," she said. "I think that my parents wanted to protect us from being hurt, and from being discriminated against." Two years ago, Wanihadie decided to learn more about her heritage. That's when she discovered her family was Beaver, not Cree. Her grandparents had been cut off from their Beaver language and culture at residential school. After returning to the community, they adopted the Cree dialect spoken by members of the nearby Horse Lake First Nation, Wanihadie said. Read more: CBC News

With fewer fluent speakers, demand for teachers of Indigenous languages is on the rise

September 18th, 2017 by A trend toward "Indigenizing" programming in schools by bringing Indigenous culture and languages into the classroom has led to a demand for teachers who are fluent in Indigenous languages. But with the number of Indigenous language speakers on the decline, school divisions have had a hard time finding qualified and certified teachers. "We had some difficulty, looking for Dakota language teachers. Not a lot of people are seeing that as a career," said Kevin Tacan. Tacan, is a Dakota knowledge keeper, and has been working with the Brandon School Division in Manitoba for 21 years. The school division is in its second year of offering high school courses on Indigenous languages, but they've had a hard time filling the Dakota language position in time for the new year. "We're trying to bring that self-esteem and confidence back to our youth, because at that age — just a little bit behind puberty — our young people are supposed to be doing their vision quests and ceremonies. Their language is important for those types of things," said Tacan. "If they don't have those, they're not going to understand the importance of them." Read more: CBC News

Saving languages

June 12th, 2017 by An entire community had cause to celebrate when 11 Six Nations Polytechnic students graduated with the first bachelor of arts degree in Ogwehoweh languages. "It's been a long road to get here, involving countless people over many years of hard work, long hours of curriculum development, and not to mention weeks of studying by each student, but we finally made it," Rebecca Jamieson, CEO and president of Six Nations Polytechnic, told about 100 people gathered this week in the Ohsweken school's main hall. In front of family, community elders and school faculty, seven students were conferred with degrees in Cayuga and four with degrees in Mohawk during a ceremony conducted in Mohawk, Cayuga and English. Also present were Six Nations elected Chief Ava Hill and several Six Nations councillors, and Brantford councillors John Utley and Richard Carpenter. Jamieson traced the path from 2012 when the school began work to mount the unique degree program to 2015 when it was accepted by the provincial government. Then she lauded the students for taking their places in the frontlines in effort reclaim the traditional six languages of the Ogwehoweh people. Oneida, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Seneca are the other four. They are languages that a report by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) says are critically endangered and could be lost. Read more: The Brantford Expositor

Reconciliation Is Canada Embracing Its Many Indigenous Languages

April 23rd, 2017 by "I was angry at my grandparents for a long time." Onowa McIvor grew up in northern Saskatchewan, where her grandparents feared prejudice against indigenous peoples and did everything they could to bury their Cree roots. They refused to teach the language to their children and grandchildren. McIvor felt robbed of her heritage. As McIvor learned more about the history of residential schools and the discrimination indigenous peoples faced, she understood the fear that drove them. Now, as director of indigenous education at the University of Victoria, she works to revitalize Canada's indigenous tongues. As Canadians mark 150 years since Confederation and reflect on our complicated history, it's a goal all Canadians should share. "If you are Canadian, indigenous languages are part of your heritage, and it should matter to you if they survive," says McIvor. Language trees like Algonquian, Athapaskan and Inuktitut drove their roots into this country millennia before a word of English or French was spoken here. Today, there are more than 60 distinct indigenous languages in Canada. Tens of thousands still speak Cree, Ojibwe and Inuktitut. Other languages are on the brink of extinction. The 2011 census (the most recent data available) recorded just 45 Mohawk speakers in all of Canada. Read more: Huffington Post Canada

Looking for new ways to revitalize Yukon’s Indigenous languages

March 8th, 2017 by Organizers at a gathering this week in Whitehorse say it's time to find new ways to preserve First Nation languages. Yukon's Indigenous languages are in critical decline and the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) is looking for different approaches to a long-standing concern — how to ensure those languages survive. About 60 people gathered at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse over two days to share their ideas at the "Voices For Change" gathering. Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations says the Southern Tutchone language is in decline. He says simply learning the language is different from hearing it and using it in daily life. It's a small group of individuals who actually have Southern Tutchone as a first language, and those who actually grew up in the language — that's a big difference from speaking it from a more learned-type approach." he said. Read more: CBC News

The fight is on to save Toronto’s endangered languages

February 22nd, 2017 by From Harari, spoken in eastern Ethiopia, to Bukhori, spoken by Bukharan Jews in central Asia, an organization is looking to record Toronto's linguistic diversity before it's too late. Anastasia Riehl, co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance Toronto, spoke on CBC Radio's Metro Morning about the race against time to capture and preserve the languages of small communities. "About 6000 to 7000 languages are spoken today, and we expect about half of those will be lost in the next 100 years," she said. "Many of these languages have never been documented." Riehl said that by working in Toronto, they have a natural advantage. "While linguists are scrambling to get to these remote parts of the world and do documentation, we can do a number of recordings right here in Toronto," she said. Read more: CBC News