2010 Report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages

2010 Report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages

Language is at the core of our identity, members of a family and nations; it provides the underpinnings of our relationship to culture, the land, spirituality, and the intellectual life of a nation.

According to this report by the First People’s Council, a provincial Crown corporation focused on the status of First Nations language, arts and culture as well as support for First Nations communities trying to recover and sustain their heritage, 60% of First Nations languages in Canada are indigenous to British Columbia. Out of the 32 distinct languages and 59 dialects in BC, all are considered to be endangered with 8 being severely endangered, 22 nearly extinct and 3 already extinct.

Fluent First Nations language speakers comprise only 5.1% of the population in 204 BC First Nations community and that minority percentage continues to dwindle. 52% the of these speakers are over the age of 65. The sharp decline in language learning over the last 100 years can be largely attributed to the aggressive assimilation policies enacted by the government and carried out in residential schools.

With the looming threat of First Nations languages potentially becoming extinct, the urgency for revitalization projects has come to the forefront. While language learning within schools is not yet sufficient to effect substantial change, it is gaining momentum as First Nations communities in BC know that language is an invaluable source of indigenous knowledge and cultural identity that can contribute greatly to an individual’s and community’s healing process. The numbers of language learners is steadily increasing as new resources are developed. The First People’s Councils also calls on First Nations communities to welcome collaboration with each other  to maximize the use of available resources and the Canadian government to commit to protecting Aboriginal language and culture through legislation so language revitalization and sustainability become a reality for BC’s First Nations languages.

Fact Sheet
video: Saving First Nations Languages

October 10, 2011   No Comments

The Story of the Masks

The Story of the Masks

Sponsored by the Virtual Museum of Canada, The Story of the Masks is authored by the Kwakwaka’wakw people of the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. Identified collectively as the Kwawkewlths by Indian Affairs and as the Kwakiutl by anthropologists, the Kwakwaka’wakw people are comprised of distinct groups living in different locations, but who speak the Kwa„wala language.

Within this site, the role the masks played in Kwakwaka’wakw society is explored using the collection of masks on exhibit at the U’mista Cultural Center at the Nuyumbalees Museum in Alert Bay, British Columbia. Understanding the legend behind each type of masks and the ceremonies that they were a part of is a central theme that illuminates the significance of the masks to Kwakwaka’wakw communities and the preservation of their identity and heritage. The importance of the masks is reflected in how they are integrated into Potlatch ceremonies, a historical, social, economic, spiritual and educational pillar for Kwakwaka’wakw communities. Although the Canadian government’s attempts to undermine this ceremony, as it was viewed to be in opposition to assimilation policies, led to the Potlatch being outlawed in 1885, the Story of the Masks shares the Kwakwaka’wakw people’s continued story of cultural survival.

October 8, 2011   No Comments

Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education

A colleague of mine emailed me a report titled “Aboriginal Postsecondary Education – Formal Instruction for the Adult Aboriginal Population“, written by Bob Cowin from Douglas College (2011).  The focus of the report is on British Columbia institutions (public and private) who deliver formal education which is intended to enroll adult Aboriginal students.  Services and programs are discussed (not individual courses).  It identifies different approaches taken in Aboriginal education, including assimilative, integrative, affiliated, and independent.  The report gives a history of the practices, focusing mainly on BC.

October 6, 2011   No Comments