A plan is in place to develop and implement revitalization plans for each of the living Indigenous languages in British Columbia.
During the provincial government’s 2018 budget announcement last month, $50 million was allocated to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC) to reverse the disruption to Indigenous languages from Canada’s history of colonization and residential schools, and address the current language crisis.
According to the province, fewer than 6,000 people speak one of the 34 Indigenous languages in B.C.
“Language is critical for connecting Indigenous peoples to their culture, spirituality, identity and land,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “For too long, Indigenous language has been under threat. The time has come for us to support First Nations in exercising their human right to speak and pass on their language and culture.”
With these funds, the FPCC will expand community immersion programs that support the development of fluent speakers of Indigenous languages. These include the Mentor-Apprentice program, which pairs fluent speakers with apprentices for one-on-one immersion training, and the Pre-school Language Nest program, which supports the creation of language and culture immersion environments for children and their parents.
Another pilot project, the Silent Speakers program, will also become permanent. This program helps those who understand, but do not speak their language, overcome challenges with using it in their communities.
“We are taking action now to support Indigenous communities’ work to preserve and revitalize endangered languages – languages that are cornerstones of cultural and social identities across our province,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “By investing in Indigenous languages, we invest in the future of Indigenous communities. I am proud our government is making this historic commitment.”
These language revitalization plans will be developed with Indigenous communities and tailored to their individual needs. The FPCC will also provide funding to increase the number of words and phrases uploaded to the FirstVoices online oral dictionary, and expand the online resources available for language learners and speakers.
“The First Nations communities we have been working with are seeing clear and measurable results, creating fluent language speakers as new knowledge keepers and documenting languages for future generations,” said Tracey Herbert, CEO of the FPCC. “This new funding will help us to build on our strong track record of success, and expand our work to all Indigenous communities in B.C., to help their mother-tongue languages flourish again.”
British Columbia has the greatest diversity of Indigenous languages in Canada. The 34 unique Indigenous languages, and over 90 dialects, represent 60% of all Indigenous languages in the country.