Chapter 11: Indigenous Languages

As unit 11.1 shows, Canada’s settler government has, for decades, engaged in deliberate strategies to eliminate the languages spoken by Indigenous peoples. Indigenous people have been working for years to try to preserve their languages by increasing the number of people who can speak them, and since the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the federal government has more openly acknowledged the importance of these efforts. People with Linguistics training can play a valuable role in language preservation and revitalization efforts, by helping to document the language and by contributing to the development of teaching materials for the languages.

For an example of another language preservation project, check out the Grand River Mohawk Language Toolkit developed by members of the McMaster community working with Clan Mother and Faithkeeper, Akoh Ima Johnson, a turtle clan Kanien’kéha born and raised at Six Nations of the Grand River.

By the end of this chapter, you’ll be able to:

  • understand the role that the settler government played in endangering Indigenous languages,
  • understand the importance of language to Indigenous people’s identity, and
  • consider the skills that linguists have to offer to Indigenous people’s work to preserve and revitalize their languages.


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Essentials of Linguistics Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.