Tag Archives: indigenous

Canada’s Indigenous Languages in Crisis

Many reports and studies over the last 10 years indicate that most of Canada’s Indigenous languages are declining and are at risk of extinction. Onowa McIvor in 2009 reported that at first European contact there were an estimated 450 aboriginal languages and dialects, now there are only about 60 languages still spoken. Statistics Canada reported in 2001 that North American Indians with the ability to converse in their native language fell from 20% in 1996 to 16% in 2001.

The Assembly of First Nations in 2007 reported that there are only 3 First Nations languages expected to survive: Cree, Objibway and Inuktitut and in 1998 declared a state of emergency on First Nations languages. They also developed a National First Nations Language Strategy and a National First Nations Language Implementation Plan.

The Northwest Territories has the most advanced Aboriginal language legislation and policies in Canada supported by the 1984 Official languages Act. In 1999 the NWT Literacy Council published “Languages of the Land” A resource manual for individuals and communities interested in Aboriginal language development. In 2010, the Government of the NWT published an Aboriginal Languages Plan to set out a framework for strengthening their nine aboriginal languages over the next decade.

British Columbia has 32 of Canada’s First Nations languages and about 59 dialects. At the time of colonization in BC 100% of the First Nations people were fluent in at least one language. This number has dropped dramatically since the late 1800’s to just 5% today. The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council published a report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages in 2010 with a real need to act to save and preserve what is left.

One common theme throughout all of these reports is to find opportunities for youth to connect and communicate in their native language with fluent speakers and elders. This can be done through immersion camps, language nests and other intergenerational ties.

UBC Office of Research Ethics

Like any post-secondary institution conducting research, UBC has a department or an office that provides information and guidance about research ethics. At UBC it is the Office of Research Ethics. Knowledge about research ethics is particularly important while planning for research that involves human subjects. The UBC ethical standards align with Canada’s national guideline on ethical research called: Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Research Involving Humans.

Research involving human subjects at UBC must follow Policy #89 which mandates research must be approved and overseen by a sanctioned Research Ethics Board. UBC has several Research Ethics Boards, and it appears that research with indigenous people or indigenous communities would fall under the UBC Behavioural REB.

This site also provides links to answer the following questions:

Academica Group

Academica Group is a Canadian based research and marketing consultancy focused on post-secondary education. They conduct research, and highlight trends for post-secondary institutes to help them map out the changing roads ahead. They provide a free subscription service called Top Ten, a daily news brief. Many post-secondary institute leaders, managers and administrators subscribe to this service for daily updates. I have been scanning the daily updates of Top Ten for a while and have noticed since starting ETEC 521, that there is a fair amount of news related to indigenous education in Canada. Here are some recent news items that came up with the following search terms:

First Nations:






My favorite part of the Academica site is the work of Ken Steele, Senior Vice-President, Education Marketing. Ken does a roadshow and if you ever have the chance to see one of his presentations on the future trends in post-secondary education, it is well worth the time spent. Ken has U-tube channel where he gathers higher education commercials and lip dubs including UBC’s LipDub. Many of these commercials are thought provoking including Ontario Colleges Obay commercial.

Module 2: Indigenous People’s Summit on Climate Change


This particular link is for the 2009 Summit, but I’m hoping that this is an annual event!  Here, indigenous people gather to discuss the changes they are seeing and the strategies they are trying to employ to cope.  Indigenous people tend to live in the harshest environments thanks to colonization, and thus they are receiving the brunt of the climate change.  In addition to coping with the rapid changes Mother Nature is throwing at them are the rapid economic and social changes that have been ongoing.

What is becoming interesting as my research progresses is the statement that indigenous people rely so heavily on the land.  The statement seems to suggest that non-indigenous people do not rely on the land nearly as much, and of course this is erroneous.  The difference is that non-indigenous people are not as connected to the land.  The resources come from the exact same places, but the connection is far more removed for non-indigenous people likely making them feel less vulnerable.  Also, non-indigenous people tend to live in less severe climates due to colonization practices, and are likely not feeling the effects of climate change as harshly.

Centre for World Indigenous Studies

The Centre for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the knowledge and understanding of the worlds indigenous populations and bringing awareness to the social and economic situations of these same peoples.  This organization’s board of directors is made up of indigenous people from all over the world.  They have ongoing research projects in various regions.  They link to websites bringing awareness of traditional indigenous medicines.  They link to periodicals they publish and books for sale regarding indigenous knowledge.  They even offer a Master’s program in with an American online university.  They are dedicated to expanding the understanding of the Fourth World and the social and economic issues they face.  The Fourth World refers to the nations around the world that are not represented by a sovereign state (i.e Aboriginal nations in Canada).  Although this website offers little in the way of external links it is a resource for an extremely interesting but overwhelming cause.  There is so much knowledge that has been lost or is limited it is nice to see an organization dedicated to the expansion of this knowledge.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 61/295: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007. This declaration affirms that “indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such”. The resolution contains 46 articles.

On November 12, 2010, Canada endorsed this Declaration in Ottawa. John Duncan, the Minister of Indian and Northern Development at the time stated that endorsement of the declaration will “further reconcile and strengthen our relationship with Aboriginal peoples in Canada”.

On December 16, 2010, the United States announced they would lend its support to the declaration after opposing the original United Nations resolution in 2007. Canada, New Zealand and Australia also opposed the resolution at the time.

“Grey Owl” A Man Ahead of His Time

Archibald Belaney also known as Grey Owl, came to Canada from England in 1906 and later took on the identity of a ”Metis” with the Indigenous name: Wa-sha-quon-asin and English name Grey Owl. He lived his life with his assumed English name Grey Owl and in the years 1925 until his death in 1938, promoted new ideas of environmentalism and nature conservation. Grey Owl lived briefly at Riding Mountain National Park and then moved to Ajawaan Lake in Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan where the Canadian Parks Service gave him a cabin and made him Honorary Warden responsible for protecting beaver.

The Canadian Parks service made a silent film about his conservation efforts to protect the Beaver called Beaver Family. Grey Owl also published many articles and books throughout the 1930’s. He toured heavily in the mid 1930’s throughout Canada and England promoting his books and his “rare for the times” ideas about conservation. Some have said that his work on conservation and protecting the beaver changed how Canada viewed wilderness and helped create a legacy of environmental awareness and protection for Canada’s forests and wildlife.

Grey Owl was found unconscious in his cabin on Ajawaan Lake in April 1938, but later died of Pneumonia in a hospital in Prince Albert. His diminished health was brought on through his exhausting tour schedule and alcoholism. On the day of his death, the North Bay Nugget newspaper ran an expose that they had been holding for three years of his true story. At that time and for many years after word, his revealed betrayal was a shock that tarnished his name and to some extent, the grounds he had made on environmental protection.

The Movie “Grey Owl” by Richard Attenborough and staring Pierce Bronson was released in 1999 about his life in Canada. It received mixed reviews and was not released in the United States. The following YouTube clip from the movie called “Grey Owl” A Man Ahead of His Time, sums up his achievements.

I had the opportunity in 1998 to spend 4 days with my family walking along the shores of Kingsmere Lake and finally to Ajawaan Lake through the beautiful boreal forests of central Saskatchewan to visit Grey Owl’s cabin and to learn about his work. Prince Albert is a wonderful park and thanks to Archie Belaney and his fascination of the North American Indian at the turn of the 20th century in England, it and many other parks in Canada are preserved for all to enjoy.

Module 1: Being Indigenous


Here is an article that made me a little angry.  While it is from Mexico, the same mentality can be seen in Canada also.

The short of the long is that a group of indigenous Cucapa people had been denied their indigenous fishing rights on the Colorado River Delta in north west Mexico.  The government cited environmental devastation due to damming of the river upstream in the United States.  Despite clauses in the Mexican constitution about “indigenous rights”, the Cucapa continued to be denied fishing rights.  Finally, their lawyer suggested that it was their appearance that was causing them problems–they looked, sounded and behaved like Mexicans and not like the stereotypical Cucapas.

The article goes into the historical flip-flopping of expectations placed on the indigenous people of Mexico, and these expectations do parallel Canada and the United States.  An expectation of assimilation changed to a program of multiculturalism has indigenous people with one foot in the past and their traditional culture, and one foot in the present and mainstream culture.  This is a typical outcome for many minority groups in multicultural nations, but it’s particularly problematic for indigenous people because of the rights they have and the expectation mainstream society has on them.  Many people in mainstream society feel that if they receive special rights, they should look, behave and speak like their ancestors.  So once again, they are being dictated to by the mainstream.

Module 1: Indegenous Environmental Network


The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is a website that aims  to “protect the environmental, cultural, social, and human rights of Indigenous Peoples”.  The website is American, but is inclusive to all indigenous groups in North America, and could readily be used by other indigenous groups through out the world.  The site high lights key environmental issues in North America and provides users with scientific, cultural, spiritual and historical information on the area.  They also organize campaigns in order to prevent environmental problems or rectify wrongs of the past.

The current focus of the IEN seems to be the Alberta Oil Sands.  Several articles look at the different issues surrounding the problem and some articles discuss with the local First Nations populations are doing in attempts to rectify the situation.  Interestingly, they also document the work they have done in conjunction with similar organizations (not indigenous ones, but environmental ones) in Norway, Demark, Russia, Finland and The US to convince state governments to impose an international moratorium on offshore drilling for oil in the Arctic.  I wasn’t able to see what success they have had convincing these governments to leave the last untouched source of desperately needed fossil fuels, but with such international solidarity between the interest groups, one can hope that governments will listen.

Module 1: Endangered Species in Canada


This site has really grabbed my interest!  The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has the daunting and important task of evaluating the health of the various species of wildlife in Canada.  It is a very interesting approach to what has likely always been a very hard-science based practice.  Scientists tracking the health of the species that we rely on in Canada likely realized very quickly that their data did not go back far enough to make informed decisions, but they also realized that for the health of some species, decisions had to be made!

Aboriginal traditional knowledge (ATK) is incorporated into their annual assessments.  The website has information on what ATK is, and even states that the meaning of ATK varies depending on what region one is researching.  The assessment process for determining the health of a species is listed and in that list is the protocol around using ATK.  This protocol includes cultural sensitivity due to the spiritual nature of the information.  The site is run by the Government of Canada and so this representation of ATK is in my opinion a grand tipping of the hat, so to speak, to First Nations cultures and their vast knowledge of the land.