Through the Language we can bring healing to our people.
As a First Nation, Inuit, and/or Metis individual, what priorities would you bring to the forefront of Turtle Island in order to bring healing, renewed relationships, positive action and revitalization of our diverse cultures?
This question was at the heart, spirit and intent of over 26 First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nations as I travelled Far East to “Unama’ki – Land of the Fog” and “People of the Dawn” in Membertou First Nation, Nova Scotia. Knowledge keepers, youth, elders, women, men, two spirited and all sovereign passionate souls gathered here on Mi’kmaq territory to collaborate, discuss, network, share stories and record ideas toward this question and plausible solutions.
Jeff Ward (a member of Membertou First Nation) confidently stated that, “through the language we can bring healing to our people.” I have heard this time and time again from elders back home on the plains as well. That our languages and cultures go hand in hand and that it’s vital to keep our languages alive in order to also keep our cultures alive.
Jeff Ward also mentioned that, “We have a gift of Indigenous language, we need to think about that and honour that. Think of this gathering here in the east as a new beginning”.
A woman from the Native Women’s Association of Canada proclaimed that “Indigenous women are keepers of the language” and that only 5% of First Nation children learn an Indigenous language.
Many of these knowledge keepers, with passion in their words, their eyes pleading and searching for change, their hearts pouring out to a sea of Indigeniety sparked a flame inside my being. It had always been there but had not been inflamed to that capacity.
Being a young Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman, who was born and raised in the urban inner city, far from any Indigenous language other than the “official” colonial construct of English and French. I am now learning so much more about the loss of our culture and languages and how its such an incredibly important time right now to strengthen our heritage, revitalize and reclaim who we are as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. I must return back to my roots, visit and learn from the source, from my Cree (Nihithaw) territory in Northern Manitoba. I must return back and fully immerse myself in the language in order to fully become fluent.
Some nations have only a few fluent speakers of the language left and most of them are beginning to approach their final years in this physical realm. This is very painful to hear and ignites my spirit to want to create concrete action in order to reverse this. To create new generations of speakers.
Some tips to achieve this include:
- Record and document elders
- Teach children in public school system
- Begin immersion with on-reserve schools
- Create new generation of adult speakers committing to 2000 hours of meaningful exposure to the language.
- Language camps
- Elder socials
- utilization of media (TV, movies, cartoons, books, social media, etc.)
With that, us as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, Metis peoples need to ask ourselves how bad do we want it? What are the commitments we are willing to make right now in this moment? What sacrifices do we want to make for our languages and culture? We need to feed the passion. We need to accept our role, its all within us.
A group of passionate youth rose up and spoke out. They exclaimed straight from spirit that “before asking the people for their hand, we must ask for their heart”. They also said that language revitalization is about healing, reconciliation and belonging. We need to ask what re-learning our languages would mean for those “lost generations” to the residential school survivors. To bring life back to their beings and spirits. We must infiltrate and enforce our leadership, lead by example, use language whenever we can, adopt traditional roles and have hands on learning.
Its time for us to come together and collectively heal. I believe in us.