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Strategies for Language Resurgence

On November 18 & 19, 2013, MFNERC’s Language Program hosted a two-day gathering for Ojibway language specialists and teachers from across Manitoba. They came together in Brokenhead First Nation to discuss the challenges they face in their communities and schools. Participants also spoke about their vision of language resurgence and ensuring its success.

Educator Shirley Fontaine chaired the two-day event and encouraged much dialogue and deliberation. She also presented a First Nations Language Strategy, giving examples from various cultures, including the Maoris from New Zealand, the indigenous languages of Hawaii, and the Hebrew language in Israel, which have all had language resurgences.

Elder Dave Courchene gave a moving speech about the importance of language and culture. He talked about the negative impacts of colonialism and how that has shaped First Nations’ present situation, not only in Canada, but within our own communities. Stating that this must change, he concluded that it can only change with First Nations people working together. His speech gave the audience an opportunity to reflect on what has happened in their own communities, where the breakdown occurred, and how this can be mended.

At various times throughout the two days, attendees broke into groups to talk about a variety of topics. Discussion points included questions about the importance of revitalizing and retaining First Nations languages, and strategies that can be implemented in the communities and schools. Other points included the importance of having the leadership and the community as a whole involved in the process of language revitalization.

Participants who attended the event are testament to the need for language programs within First Nations schools. Language & Culture Program Manager, Vera Mitchell gave closing remarks, assuring the delegation that the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre will continue to work with the schools to provide much needed supports. She also reaffirmed the importance of how language relates to culture within our classrooms, communities and nations.