The final part of the project was to consult with the Aboriginal language communities. We went to six of the eight regions and interviewed language coordinators and people from language and cultural organizations. They talked about what Aboriginal literacy means to them. They shared with us resources or projects they were working on. They helped us identify areas where we have a common interest. They talked about the challenges they face in their work every day. And finally, they suggested ways in which the Literacy Council might be able to work with them to support Aboriginal literacy.

This report is the result of our research and discussions. It is a first step in building partnerships with Aboriginal language communities. While much of what you will read is not new, we have some clearer direction about what our role might be, and some things to think about as we redefine that role to improve our support for Aboriginal literacy. There are some concrete things we can continue with, or can begin to do, immediately. The framework for change, however, is more long-term. It requires more reflection, more fundamental change and more in-depth discussion within our organization.


2.0 Language in People's Lives

Canada is rich in languages, with its two official languages, its many immigrant languages and fifty Aboriginal languages. Today, perhaps more than in the past, society recognizes the relationship between language, culture and identity. And at least in some measure, it tries to reflect that relationship through laws that respect people's language rights and through activities like Aboriginal and heritage language courses.

2.1 The importance of language

Our language is immensely important to us, because it symbolizes, in a very concrete way, the cultural group we belong to. Language embodies culture: we use it to define our world and make sense of it. It shapes the way we look at the world, giving us our worldview. We use language to transmit our culture and worldview from one generation to the next. Joshua Fishman, who has studied languages, claims 'A language long associated with the culture is best able to express most easily, most exactly, most richly, with more appropriate overtones, the concerns, artefacts, values, and interests of that culture.'1 Languages are important in maintaining our collective identity, culture, and values and beliefs, but they are also an important part of an individual's identity and his or her feeling of self–worth.