Ahkameyimok Podcast with Perry Bellegarde
Reviving and Revitalizing Indigenous Languages w/ Dr Lorna Williams
What is the state of First Nations languages in Canada? One of the leading experts on the promotion and restoration of Indigenous culture and language, Dr Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams of the University of Victoria, joins the Ahkameyimok Podcast to discuss that ahead of the Symposium on Indigenous Languages hosted by Canadian Heritage on January 25th.
Indigenous languages represent who we are, expressing the wisdom, our worldview, the laws and lives of our ancestors. But in Canada today, just 1 in 5 First Nations persons is fluent in their language. This reality was born out of generations of colonial suppression of our language and cultures, most notably through the genocide of the residential school system. We want our languages to survive into the next centuries and beyond, and this involves some hard work. There is reason for hope, the numbers of First Nations people taking back their languages is increasing. And last year, Bill C-91, the indigenous languages act, was passed into law. It provides funding and a framework for many approaches to revive indigenous languages. It builds on the hope from our Elders who have worked hard to preserve our languages for us.
One of those Elders is Dr. Lorna Williams of the Lil’wat First Nation. For over fifty years she has been an Indigenous educator and language specialist, working at all levels, from local to national, most recently as the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Education at the University of Victoria. For her efforts, Dr Williams received the Order of Canada last year.