Working with First Nations Language Preservation

At the recent AIM Summer Institute we were honored to have in attendance Marianne and Ronald Ignace, SFU linguists, anthropologists and educators, based in the Shushwap language/ geographical area of interior BC. They were attending on the recommendation of Yukon linguist/educator Daniel Tlen, also in attendance. Towards the end of the Institute they met with AIM co-founder Matt Maxwell and me to discuss the possibility of adapting the AIM curriculum for First Nations Language education. I was expecting a conversation dealing with ‘ifs’ and ‘coulds’ but we immediately got to the ‘whens’ and ‘hows’.

This is a powerful core team with a huge amount of experience in both linguistics, education, and simply making things happen. Initially the work would be done with one key language, perhaps Shuswap or more, more probably, Southern Tutchone, a language common to both Daniel and the Ignaces.

Of course we would not be able to simply adapt one of the existing story/plays but must seek find a story integral to the language in question. We gave some consideration as to whether there is a common theme or story so that the resulting course can be more rapidly and economically iterated to other languages. While we discussed key themes it was not clear yet where this would be possible.

The key thing now is obtaining the funding to make this possible. There are several avenues to explore. However I have no doubt that this is the start of something incredible. Later in the night as Daniel and I swapped between the ukelele and a guitar at hand, singing whatever came into our heads and drinking a few bottles of Sleamans, I had even less doubt.



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