Ethnologue (M3-1)

The Ethnologue is a reference resource that catalogues all of the world’s known living languages—all 6909 of them.  The Ethnologue is available to order in print or a version can be found free online.  It was created by scholars through SIL International (Summer Institute of Linguistics), an organization dedicated to working with speakers of lesser-known languages (many of which are indigenous languages or variants of indigenous languages) to record, study and assist in revitalizing the language.

Upon arrival at the home page, there are many ways to look up language information.  One can look at language families, geographical regions or endangered languages only, for example, in order to find what they are looking for.  Maps, diagrams and statistical summaries of language-related information are available throughout the site, and for each entry there is a breakdown of the language’s status: how many speakers of the language, with a distinction between L1 (native) and other speakers; where the language is spoken in the world; how many cultural members of the language group exist; the language family it belongs to; other names for the language; and where to find more information on the language—often links to academic articles.

Of particular interest to the study of indigenous community reality is the Endangered Languages section.  Here you will find not only information regarding specific languages, but also a link to SIL’s endangered languages policy, which explains more about why linguists want to work with these languages and stop them from dying out unrecorded.  It is also important to keep in mind, however, that much of the research is carried out by non-cultural members, and that despite the well-meaning efforts of SIL International, after centuries of colonization, some communities may not desire to have their language recorded or documented.  After all, at its outset, SIL was a Christian organization that began by translating biblical information for indigenous communities–colonization at its best.  Although SIL is still guided by Christian principles, the Ethnologue and other SIL publications are now non-denominational, research-based works.

November 10, 2009   No Comments

First Nations Seeker (M2-1)

In recent readings and posts I have been coming across many first nations groups that I am unfamiliar with.  From  geographical and historical perspectives it is very hard to keep track of the many unique communities across Canada.

One site that has helped me in looking into these groups is this site lists what appears to most, if not all, of the first nations groups and communities in North America as well as the Caribbean, Russia and Greenland.  The list is organized linguistically which is essentially by geographic region so it is very easy to gain more information about local groups.

For each group a map is provided showing their region as well as any links to native or band sites.  The site lists well over 100 different groups with 1-20 links to individual community sites.

If you are looking for more information on a given first nations group in North America this is a great site to check first.

October 18, 2009   No Comments

The First Peoples’ Language Map of British Columbia (M1-2)

First created in 2005 with the support of the British Columbia Ministry of Education, the First Peoples’ Language Map of B.C. is a project that has organized and categorized the indigenous languages of British Columbia by name(s), location and language family—both in a list and interactive map format.  In addition to the aforementioned language resources, there is a listing of First Nations in B.C., as well as a listing of “Community Champions” from various communities in B.C.: champion artists and language activists.

Perhaps the most informative section of the site, particularly to those who have little knowledge of the linguistic diversity in B.C., is the interactive map on the main page.  Viewers are able to examine contemporary as well as “sleeping” languages, and can customize the map view to suit their needs and interests.  The inclusion of sleeping languages demonstrates the urgency of the issue of language revitalization in B.C., and will inform both indigenous and non-indigenous viewers of the diversity and jeopardy faced by B.C. First Nations.

September 27, 2009   No Comments

First Voices: Language Archives Celebrating World Indigenous Cultures (M1-1)


The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation, with the support of government agencies such as the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the British Columbia Ministry of Aboriginal Relations, as well as other partners, has created a set of online tools to assist indigenous people with indigenous language instruction, exploration and cultural revitalization.

Writing systems, images, sounds, videos, and games are embedded on the site, and many are accessible by the general public (some language resources are password protected so as to respect the customs of those particular communities).  In addition to an interactive map and listing of many indigenous languages in Canada, the website also provides a section specifically for children at , where many languages can be explored by clicking on pictures for sounds, videos and writing.

This site is an attempt to use digital technology to connect people with their language, and by extension, their culture.  In addition to focusing on indigenous community members and their efforts in language documentation and revitalization, in many instances, this site also provides the opportunity for non-community members to explore indigenous languages and to learn more about the diversity of indigenous languages in Canada.

September 27, 2009   No Comments

Centre for Sámi Studies (DGM Module 1-5)

This website wasn’t quite what I expected, but it is still of interest as an artefact of cultural identity. The Centre exists as a research unit within the University of Tromsø, Norway. As such, the website presentation is suitably dry and academic. In the description of the campus, I found the Sámi Cultural House to be strikingly similar to the way Laurentian University’s new Native Centre has been planned, incorporating natural building materials, natural surroundings and traditional structures (turf hut : teepee). Culturally, this centre seems to be on the outside looking in, as far as I can tell without learning to read Norwegian. Even with studies on Indigenous Policy, Rights and Development, Sámi language courses and cultural events, the centre’s activities appear to be more of a portal between Sámi and Nordic cultures than a participatory player in Sámi culture.

Resources linked from this site include:

Forum for Development Cooperation with Indigenous Peoples
for researchers, development workers, administrators and activists.
Read more …

Survey of Sami and Indigenous


The Indigenous University

Studies and Related Activities

Research and Reports

Strategic Planning

September 24, 2009   No Comments