B.C. has the largest diversity of Indigenous languages in Canada and the provincial government says the $50 million committed towards revitalization efforts last year is bearing fruit.
B.C. has 34 unique Indigenous languages and over 90 dialects, making up 60 per cent of all First Nations languages in Canada.
This rich linguistic diversity was badly damaged by past colonial policies and, today, fewer than 6,000 people speak one of the province’s 34 Indigenous languages.
“Crisis is a strong word, but an appropriate one. Colonial policies designed to sever Indigenous peoples’ connections to language and culture had devastating results,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
Referring to last week’s National Indigenous Languages Day, Fraser said it was important to “lift up our hands to the many language champions working to address the language crisis facing Indigenous peoples. Champions like a young woman from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation who told me that learning her language was like seeing the world in colour for the first time.”
Today is National Indigenous Languages Day! Did you know British Columbia has the greatest diversity of Indigenous languages in Canada? The 34 unique Indigenous languages and 90+ dialects, represent 60% of all Indigenous languages in the country. https://t.co/fMP1zjwYsg pic.twitter.com/xYifrNCGRy— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) March 31, 2019
Fraser said thanks to $50 million in government funding, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council has been able to offer more language revitalization support, such as 167 language grants and more training opportunities, involving 475 people.
The council is also set to launch Reclaiming My Language: A Course for Silent Speakers, which is designed for people who understand but don’t speak their language.
“We can all be encouraged with the growing interest in, and support for, Indigenous language revitalization across the country and around the world. In its recent budget, the federal government committed to some new investments to support Indigenous languages and legislation to protect and promote Indigenous languages across the country. The United Nations has designated 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and in June, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation will welcome Indigenous language speakers and experts to Victoria for a major international conference on Indigenous language revitalization.”
Fraser noted that Grand Chief Ed John, one of the champions of the UN designation, recently said that Indigenous languages are fundamental to First Nations members’ survival, dignity and well–being.