SICC Language Keepers conference important work
- EFN Staff | December 29, 2014
Indigenous languages are at high risk of becoming extinct if we don’t teach it to the next generation immediately. Unfortunately, the federal government does not fund language training and leaves language retention in the hands of organizations like the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre.
To do their part to preserve language, the SICC hosts an annual Language Keepers conference. Remember the old expression “Kids these Days?” Well, it is the kids these days that have to be reached in order to preserve the language...but often these kids communicate different than the older generation. That’s why this year the SICC went with the theme Utilizing Technology for Language Preservation.
One of the Key note speakers was media star Wab Kinew. He joined the conference via Skype from Winnipeg. He knows the perils of losing the language and he tells an interesting story of his own community.
“When I was a kid growing up on the reserve, we had 100% fluency,” said Kinew. “Now the youth are almost at zero. We asked the Elders why that is and they said that whenever they speak the language to the young people, they just look down at their phone.” Kinew then went on to demonstrate an app he had created for the Anishinaabe language.
“Our goal is to share our successes in the use of technology as well as recognizing the successes of our fellow Language Keepers,” said SICC President Dorothy Myo of the conference that also featured Don Thornton who helped developed language apps for the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council. “We need to work on Inspiring youth to learn and maintain their language in order to strengthen their First Nations identity.”
The SICC has been publishing books for children and books in Indigenous languages, but they always had trouble reaching the youth. “No matter what we did, young people weren’t breaking down our doors. But now they reach us on Facebook and our webpage,” said Myo. “It only makes sense that we meet them on their ground.”
The Conference is pulled together on a tight budget, with the generous support of various sponsors and through fundraising including their annual golf tournament and some other events. The Centre could do a lot more but the lack of funding is a concern. “The federal government does not support First Nation languages,” added Myo. “It is very disheartening that First Peoples languages are not supported and it seems like the government wants us to lose our language. We are not going to let that happen.”
Over 400 people attended the conference this year and besides the excellent training in the breakout rooms, participants were entertained with a round dance and performances by classical musician Rhonda Head and by comedian DerRic Starlight.
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