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Significance of Indigenous Language Revitalization

Indigenous language revitalization and naming go hand in hand when it comes to things that are of importance for many Indigenous communities. We can find various aspects that hold significance in this topic, like how language can preserve and pass on key information about culture, identity and ecological knowledge.

As many of you know, Indigenous languages are more than just ways to talk; they hold the history, beliefs, and way of life of Indigenous peoples. For example, hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ is spoken by the Down River people of the Fraser Valley, including the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, Kwikwetlem, Tsawwassen, Katzie, and Kwantlen Nations. Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ names carry knowledge of the landscape, passed generation to generation, that connect the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people to the land, their traditions and their ancestors. An example of that would be the name slakəyánc, which refers to the ancient village site of kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation and is a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ term meaning “young sockeye.” The kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation is working to revitalize the use of their traditional language within their community and their traditional territory, and has put together a language guide to help people use the correct spelling and pronunciation for place names and some common words. You can check it out here: hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Language Guide - Kwikwetlem First Nation.

Fields like environmental science, anthropology, and linguistics can learn a lot from Indigenous languages, and help us learn more about how humans use language and think. Keeping these languages alive is important for both Indigenous communities and preserving global cultural & linguistic diversity, so naming things in local Indigenous languages ensures the language is widely used and honors the deep ties that those Indigenous nations have to the land.


Author: Behrouz, ITMP Blog Writer

Image credits: Chief Lady Bird via Queen's University


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