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Revitalizing Indigenous language for current and future generations

Language is the fundamental way Indigenous peoples share their knowledge, communicate their understanding of the world and connect with their spirituality. Evidence suggests that language plays a critical role in Indigenous peoples’ well-being, including their mental health and sense of community belonging. 

A project, Supporting Indigenous Language Revitalization (SILR), at the University of Alberta (U of A) is a community-led, participatory five-year project, enabled by the BHP Foundation, that will provide support to Indigenous nations and communities to successfully carry out their own language revitalization efforts through the coming generations.  

The vision for SILR is to actively work towards contributing to a future where Indigenous languages are healthy and vibrant, and are spoken in homes, schools, workplaces and on the land. The path moving forward is grounded in the advice of Elders and Indigenous language keepers, and in respect and collaboration with Indigenous communities and organizations leading the way forward through language activities.  

The project will also contribute to developing capacity within the University of Alberta by supporting research by Indigenous graduate students; a language club for students; and expanding the community-engaged work with the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute (CILLDI) and in the Faculty of Education. Additionally, the project also hopes to develop capacity within K - 12 school systems to embrace Indigenous community-led language revitalization activities. Most significantly, the project will take the lead from Advisory Council members from diverse language groups, including Cree (Y Dialect and Bushland Cree), Anishinaabe, Michif, Blackfoot, Dene (Denesųłiné and Dene Tha), Inuktitut (Inuinnaqtun Dialect) and Stoney to share information and direct resources to Indigenous communities and organizations engaging in language revitalization activities.  

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Actions have suggested that universities have a role to play in respecting Indigenous language sovereignty and supporting Indigenous language revitalization. The project recognizes and reaffirms Indigenous language rights as inherent in Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 and the Indigenous Languages Act respecting Indigenous languages and international human rights, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

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