Landing : Athabascau University


In the excitement over the new Canadian Indigenous Languages Act, many First Nation communities are eagerly awaiting new funds to begin or continue community language programs.  Common approaches to indigenous language programs range from 40 minute classes once a week in between the existing provincial curriculums to community mentor apprentice programs.  These are all great pathways to dip toes in the language but may not be providing the desired results of full fluency in First Nation communities.  Often when it comes to education we accept the status quo missing effective opportunities to significantly shift directions.  The following questions can guide those with the responsibilities for community language and wellness towards maximizing resources in indigenous language learning opportunities.

Is increasing community indigenous language fluency the most important directive coming from the Elders?  


Historically, First Nation education funding was and seems to continue to be tied to provincial curriculum delivery?  Teachers in First Nation schools are legally responsible to deliver provincial curriculums with additional indigenous content layered within the provincial context or through after school programming.  This does not demonstrate a prioritization of the Elders' direction as a way that allows for indigenous perspectives and culture.  Demonstrating indigenous ways of knowing through a Eurocentric education system is akin to holding water in a leaky bucket.  Education professionals continue to treat community curriculums as second to provincial curriculums due to the accountability to the funding conditions while First Nation politicians pride themselves on increasing high school graduation statistics hoping that their people will find a place in a Eurocentric focused society.  However the current imaginary Eurocentric structures are falling away to reveal Mother Nature as real and the real significance of waking up the indigenous languages.






Is there an awareness of the significance indigenous language has for all humans?


As our Mother Earth begins to moan and stretch to equalize inequities, many humans are looking to nature for both comfort and as a challenge.  Human languages that have been least affected by Eurocentric perspectives contain wisdom for everyone.  Indigenous language is a language of action and metaphor.  It contains instruction within the language on how to live.  If we are aware of our indigenous translations then effective learning must be a process of action on the land with fluent skilled speakers.  In teaching the language through indigenous ways of knowing communities will address the symptoms of Eurocentric perspectives such as hunger and homelessness through community based relevant processes where the people can share in rebuilding along with the language. 




Why is this important now?


From an Indigenous perspective one might interpret the awakening of the residential school children as a calling to those with responsibility to rise and begin looking after the children.  Our current school systems contain the same patterns as residential schools creating the same dysfunctions and illnesses as did the schools of the past.  There is no time to waste adhering to systems that are not useful for feeding and caring for the immediate suffrages of hunger and homelessness.  The stars are aligning for exciting change in the world and indigenous languages are a key part of that change.  


Questions for Change


The right questions can assist in shifting perspectives while leading to foundations for positive change.  Questions for those responsible for Indigenous Language Funding ask how serious we are about fluency with the knowledge that the language will lead to community healing.  It questions our level of awareness in adhering to broken systems while our children suffer and why we are waiting to begin serious action.  With additional funding through the Canadian Indigenous Language Act and unconditionally tied education funding, those with the responsibility will have the capacity to return our children to the land and begin indigenous community revitalization.












Photo Credits

Child and water play Image by Mandy Klein from Pixabay

Angel Sky Image by Bevan Janzen

Blueberries Image by Jan Temmel from Pixabay 


Whalen DH, Moss M and Baldwin D. Healing through language: Positive physical health effects of indigenous language use [version 1; peer review: 2 approved with reservations]. F1000Research 2016, 5:852 (


Johnson, J. T., & Murton, B. (2007). Re/placing native science: Indigenous voices in contemporary constructions of nature. Geographical research, 45(2), 121-129.


Waldram, J. B. (2013). Transformative and restorative processes: Revisiting the question of efficacy of indigenous healing. Medical Anthropology, 32(3), 191-207.