The first bachelor’s degree program in Indigenous language fluency, for all of Canada, will be offered right in the Okanagan.
The program will be offered at UBC Okanagan (UBCO), in partnership with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) and the En’owkin Centre in Penticton.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of fluent Nsyilxcn speakers, as Indigenous languages in the province are endangered.
According to UBCO, the Bachelor of Nsyilxcn Language Fluency (BNLF) is designed to work closely with the community “to provide a comprehensive and high-quality education in Nsyilxcn.”
“The idea that there’s only knowledge in English or French is absolutely not true,” UBCO associate professor of Indigenous Studies Dr. Jeannette Armstrong said.
“Language is identity. Indigenous knowledge systems and an Indigenous paradigm - how we view the world and how we interact - is deeply rooted in language.”
Language learners in the program will be provided with a deep understanding of not just the language, but the culture and customs as well, the university said.
Armstrong also said they hope the program will foster the revitalization of Nsyilxcn.
“This is an important step in acting on Indigenous people’s rights to develop and transmit their languages, knowledge, and oral traditions.”
The BNLF program is the first degree to come out of a newly designed framework for Indigenous language learning put forward by the First Nations Education Steering Committee and Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association.
Graduates of the program can continue to work in education, social services, culture, tourism, and resource-management positions.
The partnership between NVIT and the En’owkin Centre means students will be able to transfer the credits they earn at the two schools to the new degree program. The BNLF is also designed to meet prerequisites for other post-secondary programs, which means students can pursue further studies to complete their degrees.