Retaining Native languages

I have often blogged about the importance of native communities working to retain and restore their languages. Language is a crucial aspect of retaining traditional cultures and lives. This article from a Vancouver B.C. paper reinforces that point.

Language is culture

If B.C. native languages are lost, important parts of culture are lost with them



[I have edited and shortened the article here]  “Barbara Harris [is an instructor in] the master-apprentice program through the First Peoples' Cultural Council. A First Nations-run corporation, the council's mandate is to support the revitalization of Aboriginal language, arts and culture in B.C. The council does this through documentation, cultural programming, curriculum development and programs like the master-apprentice program.

. . . Linguists include B.C. on the list of global hot spots for language extinction. There are 34 First Nations language groups left, and of those 13 are spoken by fewer than 50 people each. Most of the fluent speakers are 60 or older.

There are just over 400 fluent speakers of Gitsenimx in a population of nearly 15,000 Gitxsans. . . .

For Khelsilem Rivers, language is necessary for a culture to continue and retain its identity. The 23-year-old is working with the Tsleil-Wau-tuth nation on developing a program to learn and teach its language, Hun'q'unin'um. He's also developing a language immersion program for his own community, Squamish, to help preserve their native tongue Skwxwú7mesh Sníchum.

. . .  A culture stands to lose much more than just a language, Rivers says. "Its values and world view are lost. The way people will view the world, the way they'll view each other, their environment, all are carried within the language. When our minds are dominated with an English or European language, we are coming from a colonized world view."

Language flavours everything, he says, "whether it's a hunting culture or fishing culture, whether it's our ceremonies, whether it's our families. It's the language making it more complex and it's binding it all together in a way English doesn't do." . . .

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