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According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s languages are at risk of dying out – disproportionately Indigenous languages are at risk globally. In Canada, the Residential school system and official policies forcing assimilation of Indigenous people drove the decline of Indigenous languages, but communities across the country are working hard to revitalize their languages.
Travis Jimmy John, a Nakoda knowledge-keeper from Eden Valley, Alta. was raised traditionally by his grandparents, and is a native Nakoda speaker. Jimmy John says that it is vital for fellow speakers to take action, which is why he founded Nakota Îtipi n Ryder Style Craft, an eco-tourism and cultural venture aimed at teaching and sharing knowledge with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“Because of what’s happening today, [with] reconciliation, a lot of people out there are starting to rephrase that term to reconcili-action. So that’s what we do, we go and set up our tipi and we talk about the differences in the language and the customs and ceremonies. Anything they want to learn I come and teach,” says Jimmy John.
In 1995, CBC North started an hour-long Inuktitut language broadcast, Igalaaq, with native Inuktitut speaker Rassi Nashalik as host. Nashalik says the program has had a lasting impact on Inuktitut speaking, and that more and more Inuktitut is being used at home and in communities.
“It was talked about a lot [for] four or five years, that people were losing their language and now it’s starting to come up again. I hope it is,” Nashalik explains, “The more we use it, the more we will never forget. We will pass it on to our younger generation.”