Sask. people keep the indigenous language alive through music, technology and education



Language and culture were taken from many Indigenous peoples in Canada through residential schools and assimilation.

Samson LaMontagne intends to bring back this language and this culture. LaMontagne teaches Michif to children at Father Vachon School in Saskatoon. Michif is a Métis language spoken in parts of Canada and the United States, and combines Cree, French and other languages.

LaMontagne doesn’t just keep his teachings in the classroom, he also tries to reach people in a place where many spend a lot of time: Instagram.

He said he initially created content for teachers and students, but parents have started to reach out as well. He decided to use the platform because it is particularly accessible.

I believe that every student I have who speaks Michif brings the language back to life and keeps it alive.– Samson LaMontagne

LaMontagne also said it is important that indigenous peoples contribute to the preservation of their language and culture.

“If you want things to be done the right way, and if you want real reconciliation, you need the indigenous community,” he said. “Be in charge of this, be in charge of the delivery of this one.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action include a call for a language law that incorporates the principle that the preservation, revitalization and strengthening of indigenous languages ​​and cultures are best managed by peoples and communities. indigenous communities.

Language and technology

Abby Janvier-Novak and Gwen Cubbon are also part of a project using technology to help people connect, or reconnect, to Indigenous languages.

They are part of a team that is developing language revitalization apps that categorize basic Cree and Dene words into themes, like animals or body parts.

Abby Janvier-Novak and Gwen Cubbon are part of a project using technology to help people (re) connect to Indigenous languages. (Submitted by Abby Janvier-Novak)

Cubbon, a member of the Canoe Lake Cree First Nation who was the Cree language revitalization consultant on the project, said the apps also help preserve sounds, which are particularly important in Indigenous languages ​​and often the most important part. more difficult to learn.

The applications are also intended for specific communities. Applications have already been created for several communities and more are in preparation.

“I think having a language app is a contemporary way of preserving the language and making it accessible to younger generations,” says Janvier-Novak, a member of the Clearwater River Dene Nation, who was the Dene Language Revitalization Consultant. .

Abby Janvier-Novak and Gwen Cubbons are part of a team developing language revitalization apps that categorize basic Cree and Dene words into themes, like animals or body parts. (Submitted by Abby Janvier-Novak)

The Phone Apps, currently available in the Apple App Store, is an initiative of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) First Nations, which governs nine First Nations, with the goal of generating interest in learning about languages.

Language and music

Dale McArthur knows the importance of sound and language.

McArthur is a Regina-based blues-rock singer-songwriter who preserves the Nakota language through his music. Under the stage name Dale Mac, he’s working on an album that incorporates Nakota words and references to the cultural ceremony.

“The research and planning that went into this album involved extensive consultation with Elders, counseling from Elders, attending a ceremony, seeking out grant opportunities for language preservation, preservation culture as well, ”says McArthur,“ I also get involved in my home community of White Bear First Nation myself.

Singer-songwriter Dale McCarthur says preserving Indigenous culture and language is essential. (Submitted by Dale McCarthur)

He said it is important for indigenous youth to have access to language and culture.

“It was a bit of both – a passionate project and a question of preserving the language – so that when it was my turn to pass it on, I would have that language anchored in my DNA,” he says.

McArthur is hoping his album will be out in a month or so.

Language and education

The miyo mâchihowin program at ED Feehan Catholic High School in Saskatoon has been around since 2018, but has grown and evolved since then.

Initially, it was only offered to grade 9 students, but is now offered in grades 9 to 12. It also now integrates more linguistic components.

Some of the goals of the program include solving health problems, improving confidence, and forming identity. Classes feature indigenous content, such as land-based learning for physical education.

“This program creates a space for Indigenous youth to connect with who they are and perhaps move forward on a healing journey that likely begins with the residential schools and the assimilation processes that took place. throughout Canadian history, ”said teacher Falynn Baptiste.

She said she has seen how students are able to heal and develop a sense of pride in their Indigenous identity.

It has an impact on students, according to Grade 12 Lars Thiemann.

“It affected me a lot. I really learned to understand my language and my culture,” he says.

“Right now we’re doing scream lessons, I really never understood the scream. But I’ve come a long way and I can finally say that I can understand some parts of it … but not all of it yet. “

This story is part of CBC Saskatchewan’s Called to Action: Stories of Reconciliation series. Over the next few months, we’ll explore themes ranging from language to sports, with a focus on local efforts and the people who lead them.


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