Opinion: The time to revitalize our languages is now
- Alyson Bear | June 27, 2018
Recently I had the honour to attend the first Dakota Language Conference hosted by Whitecap Dakota First Nation at the Saskatoon Inn. The conference was a success and people were able to meet new relations from other communities. The speakers inspired the crowd and those of us who are Dakota and do not know our language. Our language is actually endangered and this is a scary sad thought to think of.
Let me speak from my heart. …
The anxiety is bad today. White Privilege is even more prevalent today. Having a hard time catching my breath. My eyes keep welling up with tears, I keep trying to push them back. I am angry and sad. Things aren’t good in Indian Country. Our reserves are taking hit after hit.
There are some things people choose not to see because it allows them to safely live in denial. I get it: this world can truly be an ugly place. There are things we do not want our kids to see. There are also things we need to understand and need to come to terms with if there is any future left for any children on this land.
This land is not yours, this land is not mine, this land does not belong to anyone but the Creator and Mother Earth. It is her laws, that need to be followed. Natural Disasters are on the rise, climate change is happening before our eyes, changing the ecosystems, and the biodiversity dwindling. Whales are washing up in the tides with their bodies full of plastic. More and more of our beautiful four legged and winged relatives are falling endangered, and extinct.
Our language is endangered and you know what they say about language, “Language is the gateway to your culture.” They came for the land, they came for the children, they came for our people and targeted our languages through Residential Schools, forced assimilation to forget our native tongue so we would speak, think and act in ways foreign to our native ways.
Indigenous peoples around the world, are rising up. The Mother Earth cries for us to take care of her, as we should be taking care of ourselves, our young, and our old. I am tired of people pointing the finger and blaming our people for what was a premediated plan to “get rid of the Indian.”
The Genocidal acts imposed on our people has far reaching consequences. When I talk genocidal, I mean 99% of Indigenous peoples from this continent gone. When I talk genocidal acts, I talk about forced sterilization on our people that is still happening in our hospitals today.
When I say genocidal acts, I talk about ripping children from their mothers, families, communities and there are now more First Nation children in the child welfare system today then there were in residential school. This is ongoing different times … same story….
History classes will highlight genocides that took place in other countries but will not recognize or teach about the ongoing genocide in their own home. Everything is not rainbows and butterflies and things will only get worse for all the children here if we continue down the path we are on.
I also cannot blame anyone for their addictions: it’s understandable once you become aware, enlightened of the truth, learn and educate yourself on the truth of why you live where you live and why we live where we live.
Reserves were made to keep the First peoples of this nation out of sight out of mind, it was illegal to practice ceremony to remember who you are, have a sense of identity, any hope in connecting to the land and your people. Our ceremonies are loaded with spirit, values, laws, and rules, that once governed our peoples to live in harmony with all living things. Now all living things seem to be dying.
Suicidal youth continues to rise. Children losing hope, not sure who they are or their place in this world. Trying to fit in on the reserve, trying to leave the reserve to look for opportunity, getting sucked into the temptations of a capitalistic world. Trying to end dysfunctional cycles, trying to end the intergenerational trauma, but it is harder than it looks to face reality, to face your demons.
“From the smallest life form to the furthers star, we are all related in the vast web of life.” If we lose our language, we lose our culture, and we lose who we are as Dakota people. The time is now for us to act on revitalizing our languages. The only problem is it takes a lot of time, and work and effort: it is hard enough just trying to survive in this world that was not built for us.