Indigenous languages speaks volumes at Royal B.C. Museum

International Mother Language Day on Saturday examines sharing Indigenous languages

A panel discussion on the value of learning, teaching and sharing Indigenous languages will be marked by the Royal B.C. Museum for UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day on Saturday (Feb 21).

The Importance of Indigenous Languages includes a visit to the Royal B.C. Museum’s Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in B.C. exhibition, examining the diversity of First Nations languages in the province, and a panel discussion featuring two prominent language educators and advocates.

The event is co-presented by the museum and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

With 34 Indigenous languages spoken, B.C. is the most language-diverse province in Canada.

A recent report on the status of B.C. First Nations languages shows that while the number of people learning their mother language is at a record high, the dwindling numbers of fluent speakers continues to put languages at risk.

People can participate in the discussion, featuring Dr. Lorna Williams, professor emeritus at the University of Victoria and recent chair of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, and Dr. Peter Jacobs, faculty member in the UVic department of linguistics where he is part of a team researching adults learning their Indigenous language.

The discussion will explore topics such as the social and personal costs of losing a language, putting a value on the knowledge systems contained in Indigenous languages and translating the messages contained in the original languages of British Columbia about the history, plants, animals and geographic features that shape our province.

Williams, a member of the Lil’wat First Nation of Mount Currie, is an accomplished educator working on the issues of Indigenous language revitalization, curriculum design, the effects of colonization on learning and Indigenous ways of knowing.

Jacobs is of both Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) and Kwaguł (Kwakiutl) ancestry. Prior to joining the faculty at UVic, he worked as a linguist for the Squamish Nation and was editor-in-chief of the first Squamish-English dictionary.

UNESCO International Mother Language Day at the Royal B.C. Museum: The Importance of Indigenous Languages runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $16 each and available online at royalbcmuseum.ca or in person at the Royal B.C. Museum box office.