Sì Stacey Sundberg Siyeh,
Semò Marò, Setá Brian, Ehtsì Mary Louise Drygeese, Ehtsè John Drygeese
Elders always say the best way to introduce yourself is in your language, and always acknowledge your grandparents and/or your great-grandparents, so I always remind youth and children to do so also! The best advice is the elders’ advice!!
Dene languages in the North are our lifeline. We must continue them here for our children and their children, so they have a better quality of life. With our Dene culture and languages intact, we show that we, the Dene, will succeed in anything we do here in society. Our culture and languages are essential for survival -- for communicating, between the past and present, the important traditional knowledge we need to uphold in our communities. We have an opportunity here to teach our way of life to our future generations, and we have all the resources around us to do so.
Along with our rich Dene culture here in the North, our Dene languages are the lifeline that keeps us still intact with each other and with the land beneath our feet and the animals around us. Our great-great-great-grandfathers inherited our Dene Way of Life from the Creator and Yamozha, the Lawmaker of the natural world. It is we who will continue to make this Way of Life very important in our communities and in our lives, for the betterment of the Dene people.
It’s sometimes hard to work with a society that doesn’t understand Dene Way of Life. Sometimes the younger generations try to take things a step ahead by trying to learn the Dene Way of Life, only to get pulled back because there is no community support, or not enough people practicing the Dene Way of Life. It is up to all of us to try to help the situation by encouraging all peoples living in our territory to make space for our Dene languages and traditional knowledge. They may help in many ways. It can be as simple as Mahsì cho signs in the business places, or having a seat designated to an Indigenous local person on committees or boards of directors. The more we educate the Kwetì (rock people or white people), the more we have that mutual respect. As I have been saying for a while, that’s enough learning the colonial or western way of life! We need to start, and continue, to live and learn more about Indigenous ways of life.
We thrive when we have our Dene culture and languages, and we have a better quality of life! But trying not to be discouraged by low attendance at events and classes is not easy. If we continue to have little to no encouragement and motivation to speak our languages, or to even add language programming, our whole way of life will be shifted into the colonial way of life, because once we let our languages go, our culture will be soon to follow. That doesn’t sit well with me.
I really try to encourage, promote, and even volunteer for, language events and activities. We see some young people trying to work at it, but it’s the community support and encouragement for the young people that needs to be addressed by the community, the leaders, the elders and all the resource people. Once we have people in place who are willing to teach and learn our Dene Way of Life, with the Dene Languages, on the Land with elders and a supportive cohort, it can very easily happen if we have the constructive and non-stop support from all!
The first thing we started with our little family to continue speaking the language was to have our child have a Dene name. A good place to start.
In Dene Unity,
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