The youth of the We’koqma’g First Nation community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia examine why a lot of the youth are not speaking the Mi’kmaq language. In doing so, the youth interview both the children as well as the elders of the community to get a glimpse into the present day culture. Some suggestions point to the influence of current technologies such as gaming and media as a reason as to why they are losing their language. The original music and technological competencies displayed by the youth are awesome!
Hosted by Cape Breton University, this site provides a wealth of information for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginals by serving as a repository of historical and up to date data. Some resources I found useful are the presentation of Mi’kmaq history, the time-line of important Mi’kmaq events, a list of related websites, and a collection of essays dealing with the Mi’kmaq culture.
One essay I found very interesting and insightful was written by Dr. Marie Battiste (1998) is entitled, “Enabling the Autumn Seed: Toward a Decolonized approach to Aboriginal knowledge, language, and education.”
The Eagle Village website is an excellent resource for including authentic First Nations content in the classroom. As is outlined in the Enhancement Agreement in my school district, including language studies of the local indigenous language goes a long way to providing opportunities for cultural understanding. The site is focussed on the Algonkian people, especially the Anishnabe from the Eagle Village on the shores of Lake Kipawa in Quebec. There are lists of books that would be useful and other resources in terms of language activities, games etc. Locally, First Voices is used to promote the Hul’q’umi’num language and culture. While this site is primarily for the use of members, there is a great amount of information that is useful to anyone teaching social studies curriculum. This seems to be an excellent example of a remote band using technology to enhance their own community and to share their culture with the world at large. On both sites, actual voice recording help teach the indigenous vocabulary to learners. With advances in technology both in terms of ease of use and availability will certainly go a long way to helping preserve language and culture. However, we must bear in mind that connectivity is far from universal within Canada and within each village. We still have a way to go to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities.
Dakota is a regional language spoken by the Sioux people. Wikipedia identifies it as being closely related to and mutually intelligible with the Lakota language. In doing my research on the digital divide and language preservation, I came across an old website (hasn’t been updated in years) that was attempting to preserve Dakota online. I think its really interesting to examine websites such as this as they provide an almost historical perspective on what digital representation and preservation of indigenous language looked liked only 15 years ago. 1996 appears to be the last year the page was updated, however it seems to still have some value in language acquisition. Check it out!: http://www.alliance2k.org/daklang/dakota9463.htm
This article discusses the ideas of Barbara Lockee of Virgina Tech. Lockee did her doctoral dissertation on using hypermedia to perpetuate Native American languages. Although a small percentage of Native American people are fluent in a native language, Lockee suggests that there is hope because many elders believe that maintenance of tribal cultures is dependent on young people’s learning to read, write, and speak their native languages. As part of her dissertation work, Lockee is developing a program to help teach Native Americans their original languages.
Lockee mentions the reasons for why Native Americans lost their languages. Influences such as residential school and moving to reservations heavily affected preservation of native languages. With the lack of ability to communicate to elders, native peoples have a hard time learning about the their culture and heritage.
Lockee discusses how non-urban Native Americans have different learning styles that they have acquired at home. This is something important to consider when implementing language programs with Native students. These progams also need to be relevent and involve the context of actual situations.
The progam that Lockee is creating provides an opportunity for the students to translate and even write their own stories at their own pace. It also promotes critical thinking skills instead of memorization of content. The students would also be allowed to work in pairs to encourage cooperative, inter-related type learning that suits their cultural styles. Although her program is created for the Cherokee language, different tribes can adapt the program by inserting their own legends and languages into the template.
I find this document to be very encouraging as I understand that many Aboriginal peoples in Canada are also concerned with the loss of their language and heritage. Because there are so many different tribes and languages involved, it would be challenging to find or create a program similar to that of Lockee’s to possibly accommodate native language revival in Canada. With the available technology today, it seems quite possible. However, there is a time limit as elders only get older and will no longer be available to aid in the language revival process.
In recognition of the fact that I know little about the First Nations peoples in my area of Quesnel, BC, I decided to do some research focused on the local area and found some resources that I think others might find useful:
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/map.htm – This site has a map of BC showing a current representation of First Nations territories in BC and a table containing the peoples’ names, names used in the past, and language families.
The First People’s Language Maps of B.C. site is a wonderfully interractive series of maps showing the 203 language groups that are in B.C. The series of maps shows both contemporary languages and “sleeping” languages or languages that do not have any active speakers. It also shows the level of connectivity of each Band, which would be helpful for educators planning on-line programmes or for governments trying to ensure equal access. They provide information about each band and language group and contact numbers. One of the maps describes art initiatives all over the province. The Community Champions link describes people who are active in promoting language, culture and art throughout the province. The site was begun with the support of the First People’s Heritage Language Culture Council and the Ministry of Education in B.C. In order to be responsive to new information it is constinuously being updated to ensure accuracy. The sites are a great resource for language preservation and certainly bring home the complexity of the language and culture landscape throughout British Columbia. For the elementary classsroom, it offers a great perspective on First Nations culture throughout the province.
This website contains information on the current initiative of assessing Aboriginal students holistically. The core focus of the site is the 2009 report whereby a set of criteria for successful Aboriginal learning was created. Based on the findings of the Canadian Council of Learning, Aboriginal learning environments must be:
Holistic (focuses on the emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual elements of the individual while stresses the relationship with the Creator)
Lifelong (Skills that are learned at an early age will be used until old age and transferred to following generations)
Experiential (Learning activities enable students to make connections to their lived experiences while providing them with opportunities to participate in traditions such as storytelling, meditation, and cultural ceremonies.)
Aboriginal language and culture must be emphasized during all learning activities.
Spiritual based (Students must be presented opportunities to partake in spiritual experiences which serve as “the pathways of knowledge”. Examples of such are ceremonies, vision quests, and dreams.)
Community based (Education must be supported at the community level by parents, elders, the Aboriginal community as a whole.)
Incorporates both Aboriginal and Western knowledge. (Activities and educational practices are rooted in the best practices)
UBC has an Aboriginal Portal that provides information about anything Aboriginal at UBC. The landing page has a welcome video from Larry Grant, Musqueam Elder, Resident Elder at UBC First Nations House of learning and Adjunct Professor in the First Nations Language program. Of particular interest to module three, are the research pages. This includes current faculty, student and community research projects. The site also has access to the Xwi7xwa Library; the only dedicated Aboriginal branch of a university library in Canada.
This video discusses the “silent” crisis of language loss that is being experienced in Aboriginal communities. This crisis is labelled as “silent” because it cannot be heard nor is it a tangible problem that we can see. The video talks about the importance of language preservation in Aboriginal communities and what actions can be done to save Aboriginal languages. Technology is a tool that can aid in the preservation of Aboriginal languages. Also, public awareness is important in helping the revitalization of these languages. The internet is a tool that really help in teaching endangered languages to people, especially children and youth. An interviewee suggests that “language is important to preserve because without language, the culture is just a shell; without language, the culture is just a surface without something inside”. This video is very inspiring as it shows clips of children of Aboriginal children using flashcards and the computer to learn language. It also shows some elderly individuals learning how to use technology so they can help in the revitalization of Aboriginal languages.