If there is one area I may be able to make a humble contribution to Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, it’s in Indigenous language revitalization.
Several years ago, I was studying for a Master of Education degree in Human Resources Development, and I was required to complete a paper for a research proposal. I decided to do research about Indigenous language revitalization in the province I lived in. I cannot remember exactly why I chose this subject. Perhaps, it was because I had recently discovered I also experienced language and culture loss due to colonialism like Indigenous people in Canada and around the world. Perhaps, it was also because I was and had been a teacher of English as a Second Language for many years, English being a colonial language in Canada and globally.
Doing research for the paper was very rewarding as I learned a lot about language revitalization efforts at the time. Unfortunately, I did not take any personal action myself then. Today, however, I am pleased to share that I completed a beginner class in nêhiyawêwin (Cree) last fall and consider this accomplishment to be an important milestone in my personal Truth and Reconciliation journey. Indigenous language revitalization is crucial for reconciliation, and it is included in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, specifically, numbers 13 to 16. I am also especially proud to share this accomplishment as a timely acknowledgement of World and National Indigenous Languages Day 2023 which falls annually on March 31.
As a response to the Calls to Action on Indigenous language revitalization, I have started to include a basic introduction in nêhiyawêwin in my workshops. I was encouraged to do this because of the class I took last fall. The teacher, a talented and inspiring young man from Cowessess First Nation, suggested that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners, like me, could help to revitalize nêhiyawêwin by using it on formal occasions. I hope to continue this practice and I see it as a meaningful and respectful follow up to the Land Acknowledgement.