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

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

First Nations take to designing their own apps to preserve their languages and cultures

April 6th, 2017 by Byron Bates is meticulously adding more than 100 Cree words about medicine, pain and doctors into the mobile app he created, called ATC Cree. The app developer and Athabasca Tribal Council member built his app in an effort to maintain the languages of his community, made up of about 5,000 Cree and Dene people in the Fort McMurray area. It launched early in March with 120 Cree words translated into English, and includes audio pronunciations. Now he’s working on more. The band councillor and software developer has already received a lot of feedback, including how useful the app will be for elders who go into the city for medical treatment. “Medical professionals can bring up the app and ask the elders where it hurts and ask them other questions,” Bates says. Read more: The National Post

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

Revival of endangered aboriginal language empowers speakers in Yukon

October 16th, 2016 by Riley Vance is perched on a wooden horse in his Whitehorse-area daycare when he starts singing about tidying up in Southern Tutchone, an aboriginal language with fewer than 50 fluent speakers left. The three-year-old’s ditty is the fruit of an effort in Yukon’s Kwanlin Dun First Nation to teach dozens of children words and phrases in the endangered language daily at a local head-start program. They now have the first ever children’s book in the language. “We’re at a critical stage with our language with only a few fluent speakers left, so it’s been exciting to have them singing nursery rhymes,” said Erin Pauls, who runs the Dusk’a Head Start program. The Kwanlin Dun’s work has received royal attention. Prince William and his wife, Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, sat down in Whitehorse in late September with 25 children, an elder and the Southern Tutchone children’s book, which tells the story of William the moose searching for his son George. (The characters were named in honour of the royal visit.) It is all part of an unprecedented effort by First Nations across Canada to save their struggling languages as fluent elders die off, the legacy of the residential school system’s attempt to suppress indigenous culture. First Nations leaders say that with forecasts that half of their elders will be gone within six years, the added sense of urgency has been channelled into children’s books, grade-school programs, smartphone apps and other initiatives. Read more: The Globe and Mail

How SFU and First Nations Keep Endangered Languages Alive

July 18th, 2016 by A group of Haida elders in their nineties gathered around a microphone on Lucy Bell's dining room table. Every Haida word they spoke into it was another word recorded for future generations. It was a touching experience for Bell. Her grandmother spoke Haida, a language also known as Xaad Kil and X̱aaydaa Kil when she was young. "Many in my generation grew up hearing it but not speaking it, and knowing how precious it was to learn it," said Bell, now 45 and co-ordinator at Haida Gwaii's Xaad Kihlga Hl Suu.u Society of language. She learned Haida as an adult. Indigenous languages in Canada are declining as elder native speakers die. Not long after Bell made the Haida recordings, two of the elders who participated passed away. Read more: The Tyee