Speak­ing the lan­guage of hope

IN­DIGE­NOUS SYM­PO­SIUM ENDS ON OP­TI­MISTIC NOTE

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Tim Kali­nowski LETHBRIDGE HER­ALD

The three-day Sta­bi­liz­ing In­dige­nous Lan­guage Sym­po­sium wrapped up at the Univer­sity of Lethbridge on Satur­day with a sense of hope, re­newed con­fi­dence and a strong feel­ing of communal pur­pose.

“We are want­ing to en­sure this gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren and adults are find­ing places they can go and be mo­ti­vated to learn their lan­guage again,” said Peigan Board of Ed­u­ca­tion su­per­in­ten­dent Lisa Crow­shoe, whose staff helped co-or­ga­nize the con­fer­ence with Dr. Inge Ge­nee of the U of L’s Mod­ern Lan­guages de­part­ment.

“I think we are see­ing strides in our First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties, and we’re look­ing at best prac­tices like immersion camps, lan­guage cour­ses through our tribal col­leges, lan­guage nests, where we are look­ing at our clan sys­tems ... Where I think the strug­gle is hap­pen­ing is in our ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties. There is not as many op­por­tu­ni­ties to go and have these pro­grams in the com­mu­ni­ties.”

Crow­shoe said about 30 per cent of Black­foot peo­ple still speak their tra­di­tional lan­guage and di­alects, but felt there was a resur­gence in in­ter­est in younger peo­ple want­ing to re­con­nect with their cul­ture through lan­guage.

“It’s part of that in­her­ent value that’s at­tached to know­ing who you are and which tribe you come from, and that is found in the lan­guage,” she ex­plained.

Crow­shoe said get­ting such a pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence to come to Lethbridge was quite a feather in the cap.

“This is only the fourth time it has been held in Canada,” she ex­plained. “The other times it is usu­ally held in the United States, and has been held as far away as the Poly­ne­sian is­lands.”

The key­note speaker on Satur­day was El­don Yel­lowhorn, an arche­ol­o­gist and In­dige­nous Stud­ies pro­fes­sor at the Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity who is work­ing on help­ing to sta­bi­lize, re­vi­tal­ize and re­claim In­dige­nous lan­guages like Black­foot in Canada. The dis­tin­guished U of L alum­nus said the goal of his work was not to “pre­serve” In­dige­nous lan­guages, but rather to keep them dy­namic, grow­ing and vi­tal.

“Lan­guage is not an ar­ti­fact. It is some­thing that is liv­ing, and it re­quires con­stant use to keep it vi­brant. So it is re­ally like use it or lose it, and Black­foot is too cool to lose. It is en­er­giz­ing to see so many peo­ple who are here work­ing to­ward a com­mon goal, and it makes me re­al­ize I am ac­tu­ally con­tribut­ing to some­thing that’s big­ger than my­self.”

Fol­low @TimKalHer­ald on Twit­ter

Her­ald photo by Tim Kali­nowski

Her­man Many Guns holds up the Ea­gle Staff be­fore the danc­ing out of the flags cer­e­mony to end the suc­cess­ful three-day In­dige­nous Lan­guages Sym­po­sium at the U of L Atrium on Satur­day.

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