Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized today, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, to former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools. He also apologized to the families, loved ones, and communities for the painful and tragic legacy the residential schools left behind. (more…)
An online CBC news item caught our eye yesterday morning. The CBC article noted that the use of Aboriginal languages is on the decline in the Northwest Territories, bucking an optimistic national trend that some feel is apparent.
The article indicates that there was a 15 per cent decline in the number of people in the North West Territories “who primarily speak an Aboriginal language at home, as well as the number of people who consider one of these languages their mother tongue.” This is definitely concerning. (more…)
Today is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. It’s also been ten years since the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples making this year’s observances a major reconciliation milestone.
Read the UN’s press release and their backgrounder marking the day: On International Day, United Nations marks 10th anniversary of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (more…)
“We cannot change the past, but we can honestly recognize it.” These are words that stood out for me in a recent blog post by UBC President Santa J. Ono, in which he expresses how “honoured and humbled” he was to participate in the raising of Reconciliation Pole at UBC’s Vancouver campus.
Reconciliation Pole is a work by 7idansuu (Edenshaw), James Hart, a Haida master carver and hereditary chief, and it symbolizes the experiences of residential school students and the path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. (more…)
We would like to thank the family of the late Art (Arthur) Thompson, a Nuu-chah-nulth (Ditidaht) artist, for granting us permission to use Thunderbird as our First Nations Education Foundation logo. Thompson was a fierce advocate for the rights of residential school victims and survivors. We are deeply honoured by this gesture and eternally grateful.
– First Nations Education Foundation –
About Art Thompson
Art Thompson was born in 1948 in the village of Whyac, on the western end of Nitinaht Lake on Vancouver Island. He was a renowned artist and a fierce advocate for survivors of residential school abuse. He was also one of the first survivors to have his case heard in court and to then receive acknowledgement of what had happened to him.
Thompson’s ancestral roots are in the Coast Salish (Cowichan) and Nuu-chah-nulth (Ditidaht) nations. His father and grandfather were also artists; known for their ceremonial pieces such as masks and regalia, as well as totem poles and canoes.
Thompson spent much of his childhood away from his family and his cultural traditions. At the age of two, he contracted tuberculosis and was hospitalized for three years. Shortly thereafter he was able to return to his family, but was then sent away to residential school in Port Alberni. He ran away several times before finally securing employment in the logging industry at the age of thirteen.
Just before his twelfth birthday, Thompson was initiated into the Tlu-Kwalla (Wolf Society) along with his brothers and sister – an ancient custom that is still very active today. This event was an important connection between Thompson and his cultural heritage and it influenced his later decision to become an artist.
In 1967, he enrolled in the Commercial Art program at Camosun College in Victoria, where he worked primarily in two dimensional mediums such as paint and pastels. During this time he began to explore a narrative style with traditional Nuu-chah-nulth design. His advanced understanding of traditional Nuu-chah-nulth design came at a time when this style had been virtually overlooked in the scholastic studies that were shaping the growing interest in Northwest Coast art.
Thompson’s personal contribution to Northwest Coast art includes the use of strong contemporary and traditional design shapes with a narrative approach to myth and legend. He brought new colors and original subject matter to his work. These early serigraph prints are now considered to be a turning point in establishing Art Thompson, Nuu-chah-nulth design, and the print medium as a whole, in the contemporary art market.
You can learn more about Art Thompson’s life and his art at the following sources:
On Thursday, June 22 and Friday, June 23, 2017, the Assembly of First Nations will host an Engagement Session on the Indigenous Languages Initiative at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel for British Columbia and Yukon First Nations.
Following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s December 6, 2016 announcement that the Government of Canada would jointly develop legislation for the revitalization and recovery of Indigenous languages, the Assembly of First Nations convened a series of Engagement Sessions to seek input from First Nations.
In his speech to the Chiefs-in-Assembly, the Prime Minister said: “So today, I commit to you that our government will enact an Indigenous Languages Act, co-developed with Indigenous Peoples, with the goal of ensuring the preservation, protection, and revitalization of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit languages in this country.”
We look forward to this co-developed legislation and seeing it successfully enacted. Because if we fail to take prompt action, experts agree that most Indigenous languages will become extinct within the next 15 to 20 years. And if this happens, it will erase the identity of entire First Nations communities along with their culture, heritage, and sense of who they and we are.
If you’re looking for a great source of information on Indigenous Languages Initiatives, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has an excellent section on their website. There’s a wealth of links to resources and a variety documents from Canadian and international sources; as well as a subsection on existing Indigenous languages legislation (from Nunavut, Yukon, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, New Zealand, Hawaii, and for the Sami language of Sweden, Norway and Finland).
Here are links to some of the documents catalogued on the AFN website:
Reports from Canada
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action (2015)
- Towards a New Beginning: A Foundational Report for a Strategy to Revitalize First Nation, Inuit and Métis Cultures; Report to the Minister of Canadian Heritage by the Task Force on Languages and Cultures (2005)
- Final Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996)
- Guide to the Canadian House of Commons (2016) (page 11: How a Bill Becomes Law: The Legislative Process)
- Indigenous Languages Recognition, Preservation and Revitalization; A Report on the National Dialogue Session on Indigenous Languages (2016)
- A Guide to Language Policy and Planning for B.C. First Nations Communities
- The Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2014, Second Edition
Letters and Resolutions
- Assembly of First Nations Resolution on Revitalization of Indigenous Languages (Resolution no. 06/2015)
- Assembly of First Nations Resolution endorsing the TRC Calls to Action (Resolution no. 01/2015)
- First Nations Summit Letter to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and Ministers
- First Nations Summit Letter to the Honourable Christy Clark and Minister
- Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Letter to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and Ministers
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Report of the 15th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
- United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of Indigenous Peoples (2012)
- United Nations Report of the international expert group meeting on indigenous languages (2008)
On November 30th 2016, the First Nations Education Foundation (FNEF) facilitated the signing of an MOU with Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government (YG) laying out the intent for a landmark Language Revitalization pilot project to preserve and then revitalize their traditional language of Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Barkley dialect.
Once successful, this process will be offered to Nations throughout BC and across Canada.
According to Sociolinguists, it is generally accepted that, at 7% fluency, a language is at risk of extinction. YG has only nine (9) fluent speakers left representing 1.3% of their population.
This situation is common in many communities in British Columbia and in Canada where experts generally feel there is a real possibility that these languages will become extinct in the next 15 – 20 years and therefore by default, achieving the eradication of that entire community’s identity; its culture, and its nation – the tragic irony of which, is that this was the core objective of Canada’s Aggressive Assimilation Policy of 1879 and the resulting Indian Residential School Program that spawned from it.
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in December 2015 included Calls to Action where “The preservation, revitalization, and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and cultures are best managed by Aboriginal people and communities.” And this is what FNEF intends to do, work with First Nations, in their communities and with their elders and families.
YG seeks to restore the language, culture, and heritage that was stripped away by decades of abuse endured in government mandated residential schools which has led to multi-generational social pathologies including the high rate of elementary and secondary school dropouts; anti-social and risky behaviours; alcohol, drug abuse and even suicide that have become endemic in these communities.
To achieve its objectives, YG is currently developing a long-term strategy for language Revitalization that will include organized K-12 curriculum and a suite of digital learning tools, making it possible for both its current citizens and future generations of Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ to learn to speak Nuu-Chah-Nulth in a teacher led 21st century classroom, connected remotely at home and/or on their own with a smartphone/tablet/pc based platform.
“As a new government, YG seeks continually to build resources internally. Project staff will endeavor to build capacity by training interested groups of our citizens for aspects of the project wherever possible. Training and mentorship for sound technicians has already been identified as an opportunity for capacity building.”
– Les Doiron, President, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government (YG) and FNEF board member
 -Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015, p. 156-157