Lethbridge Herald

Speaking the language of hope

INDIGENOUS SYMPOSIUM ENDS ON OPTIMISTIC NOTE

- 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.”

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 ?? 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.
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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