Hold on, good things ahead..

AFN Engagement Session on the Indigenous Languages Initiative: Vancouver June 22 & 23

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.

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AFN Indigenous Languages Resources

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

 

Letters and Resolutions

 

International Documents

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government Pilot

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.”[1]  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

[1] -Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015, p. 156-157

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