New report shows Indigenous language learning is on the rise

Roxanne Dool (left), Brody Bear (middle), Cody Dool (right) and their family learned their ancestral language, Halq'eméylem.  (Submitted by: Roxanne Dool - photo credit)

Roxanne Dool (left), Brody Bear (middle), Cody Dool (right) and their family learned their ancestral language, Halq’eméylem. (Submitted by: Roxanne Dool – photo credit)

Indigenous language learning is on the rise, with about 3,000 learners more than in 2018, according to a new report from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC).

There are “approximately 17,000 people learning their BC language here in British Columbia,” said FPCC CEO Tracey Herbert, adding that this is about 20 percent more than the Council’s last report on the status of BC languages Native Americans of BC in 2018.

Roxanne Dool, who lives in traditional Stó:lō Nation territory in Chilliwack, has worked one-to-one with an elder as part of a mentoring program with the FPCC to learn her ancestral language, Halq’eméylem.

“It’s emotional because so much has been taken away and how hard we have to work to get back there … we’re down to just one fluent speaker in our dialect,” Dool said.

Hoping to make language learning at home easy and accessible for other families, Dool created a YouTube channel and enlisted the help of her five-year-old son, Brody Bear, to share another word of the day in the family’s traditional language.

“Even if it’s just a word or two that you’re swapping from English into Halq’eméylem, the language just keeps getting stronger and stronger,” said Dool’s husband, Cody Dool.

Revival of Indigenous Languages

Last year, the province provided $35 million to the FPCC and the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation to support programs and operations aimed at revitalizing First Nations languages, arts and cultural heritage. The investment builds on a $50 million grant made to FPCC in 2018 to address the language crisis and help revitalize Indigenous languages ​​in British Columbia.

The 2022 Status of BC Native American Languages ​​Report shows progress is being made, Herbert said, and multi-year government funding is needed to ensure long-term learning and revitalization.

“We’ve had some wonderful investments that have been made by both the federal and provincial governments,” Herbert said. “It’s not long-term, however, so we can’t commit to communities saying here’s your funding for five years, and that’s really what’s needed.”

First Cultural Council of Nations

First Cultural Council of Nations

The report also noted a significant increase in the number of semi-speakers of an indigenous language, as well as an increase in learning opportunities for adults and children.

In 2018, there were only two full-time adult Indigenous language programs in British Columbia. As of 2022, eight adult immersion programs will be offered in seven different languages, and approximately 2,417 children will be learning an indigenous language in early childhood facilities.

According to the FPCC report, 34 indigenous languages ​​are spoken in the province and about 10,355 people are fluent in these indigenous languages.

“We would be nowhere without the elders, the teachers, the knowledge keepers who have worked so closely with us…It’s really a collaboration and we’re just so proud of the work that the communities in British Columbia are doing,” said Herbert.


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