DETAH, Northwest –
The federal government says it is investing $39.4 million to support Indigenous languages in territories.
This funding will go to communities, organizations and governments to restore, revive, maintain and strengthen languages.
Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories Michael McLeod announced the grant in the Yellowknives Dene First Nation community of Detah on behalf of the Canadian Heritage Minister.
The First Nation says the funding will help them organize language and cultural classes and camps, as well as develop lesson plans, books, videos and reference materials in the Wiiliideh language.
The federal government says it has invested a total of $77.2 million to support indigenous languages in the North since 2019.
More than 70 indigenous languages are spoken across Canada, many of which are endangered.
Yellowknives Dene First Nations head Fred Sangris of Ndilo said boarding schools have had a significant impact when students are prevented from speaking their traditional languages.
“We are sticking to our language,” he said.
“No linguistic identity is lost.”
Chief Detah Edward Sangris said it was important to revive Wiiliideh, as few people still speak and some older people have difficulty with English.
“We feel older people are lonely because they don’t have anyone to talk to in their language, so we’re trying to fix that,” he said.
“Our vision for the future is to have languages come alive in the community.”
One obstacle, Edward Sangris said, is that Wiiliideh is not one of the 11 official languages of the NWT, nine of which are indigenous.
McLeod, who attended boarding school, says he understands first-hand the intergenerational effects the colonial system had on indigenous languages, cultures and identities.
He said the funding to support Indigenous languages is part of the federal government’s reconciliation effort.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 25, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial support of Meta and the Canadian Press News Scholarship.