We are only $715 away from reaching our goal! With Indiegogo, reaching your goal is kind of a big deal, because if you don’t, the site takes 9% of what you’ve raised, and that’s a big chunk of change. Click on the massive link up top if you can contribute.
This project is really important, but why may not be immediately apparent to everyone.
There are over sixty Indigenous languages in Canada, representing one of the highest levels of linguistic diversity in the world. Over half of those languages are found in British Columbia, and every single one of those languages are extremely endangered. Statistics Canada released a report in 2001 saying that only three Indigenous languages are not endangered: Cree, Ojibwe and Inuktitut. However, even these three languages are vulnerable. Fluency can be lost in only one generation, particularly if people relocate to urban centres and do not have a language community to be part of.
Only one in four Indigenous people speak their language anymore, because of the deliberate repression and destruction of our languages through Residential School and a current policy of non-support.
Indigenous people can study almost any language in the world beside their own, even in when living in their own territory!
Here I am, in Quebec, struggling to not lose my Cree language. There is only one Indigenous language class in Montreal: Inuktitut from Nunavik. This program is fairly recent. You cannot learn Cree here, or Mohawk, or Innu-Aiman, or Atikamekw, or Anishinaabe, or Mi’maq, or Maliseet, or Abenaki, or Wendat or Naskapi, despite these ten languages all being represented within this province.
Making things even harder for those of us who speak Plains Cree, is our dialect is not very similar to the Cree spoken in Quebec. So if we were able to whip up institutional support and get government funding, we would only be able to pitch a class that teaches an Indigenous language found in Quebec…which Plains Cree is not. Honestly, I would suck it up and learn Eastern Cree if that were an option to me, but it isn’t. There is a big enough community of people whose traditional language is Plains Cree, living here in Montreal, for us to have a more than one class, so it’s not an issue of need. The need is there. What is missing is the class itself.
What I’m telling you is, there is widespread institutional and political apathy towards maintaining Indigenous languages as it is. If you dare be mobile and leave your territory, you are facing further marginalisation because even if there is some movement in your area towards making Indigenous languages accessible, the focus will be on local languages.
Yes, this makes sense from a cost-benefit analysis point of view, but it ignores our reality, wherein Indigenous people CONTINUE to be very mobile, and where urbanisation is a serious factor.
One way we can address this issue is to create a system of support for language courses that do not need massive funds, where information can be shared across wide geographic spaces via social media platforms etc. We do not need a one-size fits all system, but we do need MORE. More language nests, more conversations classes, more intense courses, more synchronous online classes, more everything…and we cannot wait for someone else to set it up for us.
This is big time DIY ethic, because it is abundantly clear that no Canadian government values our languages the way we do, and we wait on them to come around and see our languages as inherently valuable, we’ll have no fluent speakers left.
This is not just a single, isolated classroom in one Indigenous language in Montreal that I’m asking you to fund. I’m asking you to help me prove that this can be done…that we can
create high levels of fluency in relatively little time, even in urban spaces outside of our traditional territories. Because if we can do this, then it can be replicated across this country. With a very small initial investment in materials, these classrooms can become a viable, immediate answer to linguistic loss. We can set them up in living rooms and garages if we can’t find or afford other spaces. I don’t care, as long as it happens.
And as always, for those who need just a little more incentive, if you contribute $5 or more, you will be entered into a draw to win either a pair of rabbit-fur mukluks, or rabbit-fur moccasins!