Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures. (2005). Part 4: First Nation, Inuit And Métis Languages: Where We Are Now. (Towards a New Beginning.)

Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures. (2005). Part 4: First Nation, Inuit And Métis Languages: Where We Are Now. In Towards a New Beginning: A Foundational Report for a Strategy to Revitalize First Nation, Inuit and Metis Languages and Cultures. (pp. 31–38). Ottawa: Aboriginal Languages Directorate.

[Language vitality measured in different ways, common is the number of fluent speakers and rate of “intergenerational transfer” …]

“The vitality of languages may be determined by a number of factors. Two of the most commonly used measures are the number of ‘fluent’ speakers, and the rate at which successive generations learn and speak the language (intergenerational transmission).” (p 33)

[Largest Indigenous language populations …]

“Cree had by far the largest number of speakers, estimated at 80,000, followed by Ojibwe with 45,000 speakers, Inuit (Inuktitut) with 25,000 speakers and Chipewyan with 15,000 speakers.” (p 34)

[Scale for classifying “language vitality” …]

“Linguists and language planners classify language vitality on a scale ranging from ‘flourishing’ to ‘critically endangered.’ Bauman’s scale35 … Flourishing languages … Enduring languages … Declining languages … Endangered languages … Critical languages … Extinct, or sleeping …” (p 34)

[Census lacks communities that didn’t participate, Michif wasn’t distinctly enumerated until 2001 …]

“Although information from the Census is an important resource, the data on First Nation, Inuit and Métis languages should be interpreted with caution. Some communities did not participate in the survey. Data on languages from the Iroquoian family as well as some of the Algonquian languages may not be representative owing to incomplete enumeration of reserves. … A case in point is Michif. It was not enumerated separately until 2001 and prior to that was reported as ‘other Algonquian.'” (p 35)

[Potential for intergenerational transmission due to number of young, in-home speakers …]

“… 1996 Census … more than 25,000 speakers — Cree, Ojibwe and Inuktitut — are ‘viable.’ … spoken in the home were relatively young. This indicates potential for language maintenance through intergenerational transmission.” (p 35)

[Younger populations contributing to language transmission … ]

“There are also a number of languages used by small populations (fewer than 10,000) that continue to be spoken among younger age groups. They too have the potential to be maintained through intergenerational transmission.” (p 35)

[Large number of languages are considered endangered …]

“Based on the average age of speakers and the use of languages in the home, responses for quite a number of languages indicate that they are endangered.” (p 35)

[Especially in B.C. …]

“… figures suggest that intergenerational transmission of B.C.’s First Nation languages has virtually ceased, and that almost no young children are acquiring the First Nation language in the home.” (p 36)

[Urban environments present challenges to urban Indigenous populations …]

“Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples underscored the importance of language and culture to First Nations, Inuit and Métis living in urban areas and highlighted the obstacles many encounter in trying to maintain these in what often may be difficult social and economic circumstances.41” (p 36)

[Cultural isolation has impact on identity and language …]

“‘Isolation from family and home community, lack of culturally relevant resources and activities and the necessity to deal with non-Aboriginal institutions and agencies for programs and services create tensions and difficulties in maintaining Aboriginal identity in general, and even more so for Aboriginal language.’42” (p 36)

[In-home language use is less common in urban areas …]

“The fact that First Nation, Inuit and Métis languages tend not to be used in the homes in urban areas makes intergenerational transmission exceedingly difficult.” (p 37)

[Unequal pressures on Indigenous languages; vary by geography and proximity to assimilative forces …]

“The acculturative forces to which First Nations are subject are not identical. Some First Nation people reside far from urban centres and follow a traditional lifestyle. Others live in or near Canadian urban centres where language maintenance is much more difficult.” (p 37)

[Language reclamation will require varying community-centred strategies …]

“… First Nation language strategies must be community-oriented and will range along a continuum from maintaining already strong languages to strengthening those that are weaker to restoring those that are in danger of disappearing.” (p 37)

[Example of Michif …]

“Métis language strategies are directed at reviving their languages off a land base.” (p 37)

[Few Michif speakers …]

“Although Michif is both the historical as well as the official language of the Métis Nation, it is now spoken by fewer than 1,000 people in Canada and is in imminent danger of disappearing if urgent measures are not adopted.” (p 37)

Selected References

  • 35. Bauman, James, A Guide to Issues in Indian Language Retention (Washington, D.C.: Centre for Applied Linguistics, 1980).
  • 41. See Part 7, “Urban Perspectives,” in Canada, Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Final Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 4, Perspectives and Realities (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1996), p. 519–37.
  • 42. M. J. Norris and L. Jantzen, “Aboriginal Languages in Canada’s Urban Areas: Characteristics, Considerations and Implications,” in Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal Peoples, edited by David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters (Ottawa: Privy Council Office, 2003), p.110.
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