Dr. Strang Burton at the launch of the Halq’eméylem instruction e-book, Te Shwoxwth Swiyeqe (The Crazy Painter), at the Sto:lo Research Centre. The book was narrated by two Sto:lo elders fluent in Halq’eméylem, Elizabeth Phillips and the late Elizabeth Herrling. The e-book includes digital flash cards, audio clips and more.

Funding of $50M for Indigenous languages across B.C. welcomed by Sto:lo leader

  • Budget boost will go ‘a long way toward language revitalization,’ says Sto:lo leader

Time is of the essence when you’re trying to breathe life into languages on the brink of extinction.

“Language is fundamental to who we are, where we come from, how we relate to others and what will live on after we are gone,” said Finance Minister Carole James during the NDP government budget speech last month in the B.C. Legislature. “Teaching of language also strengthens the cultural and social health of a community. It encourages children to grow into a future that flows from their rich heritage, and it connects the next generation with those of the past.”

The province just pledged to invest $50 million into Indigenous languages, and that boost is being welcomed warmly in Chilliwack, and clear across Sto:lo territory.

“It will go a long way toward actually revitalizing and supporting our languages, not just maintaining them,” said Tyrone McNeil, past chair of First Peoples’ Cultural Council, and president of the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC).

There is only one fluent speaker of Halq’emeylem left in the Chilliwack area, Elizabeth Phillips of Cheam First Nation.

Several public schools, in addition to on-reserve schools which provide Halq’emeylem instruction in Sto:lo communities, will benefit directly from the new funding. Two on-reserve schools are located in the Chilliwack area, at Squiala and Skwah First Nations, as well two more nearby at Sts’ailes and Seabird Island.

“It’s a tremendous investment by the province, which is greatly needed and greatly appreciated,” McNeil said.

The new language funding is “significant,” he added, and a clear indicator of a government ready to “walk the talk.”

The TRC Calls to Action and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples both emphasize the need to “preserve and revitalize” Indigenous languages, and they were also cited in the budget speech.

McNeil pointed out that language is absolutely key.

“It is our culture; our history, and our future,” he said.

There are two things they have learned definitively from experience about language instruction, McNeil said. The first is that “very small classes” work best in a master-apprenticeship relationship, and two, “the burden of responsibility” for language revitalization cannot fall to children alone.

McNeil elaborated on the latter.

“It can’t just be a subject that the children learn in school,” McNeil said. “We have to engage the parents, too.”

Although there is only one fluent speaker, there are Halq’emeylem teachers across the territory who are proficient, as well as recordings of speakers, and other raw materials.

Now they need to build on that base, in a systematic way, McNeil said.

It will take bringing children, and students together with their parents, to learn at the same time along with teachers, families and more, he stressed.

The budget speech, delivered by James, was clear about why language funding was being directed in this way.

B.C. is home to more than 30 unique First Nations, each with their own language. Several languages are severely endangered and 22 are nearly extinct.

“There is a strong link between linguistic and cultural identity and social, mental and physical well-being. Revitalization of First Nations languages is a critical part of that link,” stated B.C. Finance Minister James, in her speech.

“That’s why we are committing $50 million this fiscal year to support the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages in B.C. This funding will flow immediately, because there is no time to lose.”

McNeil agreed on the urgency, since the best way to improve all indicators of a community, is to improve language proficiency.

“This last school year was the first time we received dedicated funding for language for on-reserve schools,” McNeil said. “With this added investment, we expect to make serious inroads and add to the proficiency.

“Time is of the essence.”


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

READ MORE: Teaching the adults

READ MORE: 60s Scoop Deal

Just Posted

Summer comes early in the Fraser Valley

Record temperatures in Chilliwack before the season arrives elicit warnings

It may be ‘lights, camera, action!’ for talented Chilliwack doctor

Rob Forde is waiting to hear if he’ll become The Basement Doctor in his own reality show

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

UPDATE: Minor injuries in rollover crash that closed Sea-to-Sky

Hwy. 99 not expected to re-open until 2:30 p.m.

Fraser Valley about to heat up

Temperatures to climb into the low 30s next week

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Heat wave could lead to record-breaking electricity use: BC Hydro

Monday was a hot one, and many turned to fans and air conditioners for relief from the heat

Man rescued after jumping from ferry near Bowen Island

BC Ferries said the man was in stable condition

5 to start your day

TransLink pitches distance-based fares, independent schools top think tank rankings and more

Private schools continue to top Fraser Institute rankings

Think tank says its ratings are fair to all schools, public and private

Four arrested in police takedown in Langley

Monday night arrests result of firearms investigation by Vancouver Police Department

Former Somali child refugee fights to stay in Canada

Former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review set for today in Halifax

U.S. border separations ripple through midterm campaigns

Several Republicans to break from President Donald Trump amid boarder separation issues

Most Read