If you cherish something, carry it with you always close to your heart

If you cherish something, carry it with you always close to your heart

These were the words of one of the people who came to our Aboriginal Languages in the Home workshop last week in Yellowknife.

We discussed possible ways to mobilize, motivate and inspire people to learn and speak their Aboriginal language.  We organized the workshop to get direction on how we could best meet our mandate to support Aboriginal language and literacies development. 

People at the workshop spent much of our time together sharing resources created in the various NWT Aboriginal languages. They showed us an online animated story, puppets, storysacks, videos, books –homemade, glossy and interactive – and wonderful handcrafted clothing.  We talked about projects in the works too, leaving everyone looking forward to the upcoming Cree hockey cards and cooking show!

We talked about how to evaluate or know when resources are successful.  The oohs and aahs generated by many of the resources was visible endorsement.  Quluaq Pilakapsi, was a special guest who showed some of the highlights of her 10 years of developing resources with the Nunavut Literacy Council.  She wowed her NWT colleagues with a board game, homemade pop-up book and homemade paper accordion. 

One challenge is the need to help fluent speakers get the education to carry on revitalization work, and increase the fluency of some certified instructors who teach the languages.

We talked about the need to reduce the isolation that language workers can face and the benefits of sharing materials and resources within communities, regions and across the territories.   Many people spoke about the lack of opportunities for people working on language revitalization and development to connect and share with their colleagues.  We committed to try to take some first steps to create and maintain a network.

It was refreshing to get feedback on our efforts to produce materials in the Aboriginal languages and to hear that perhaps facilitating sharing and networking is the work we should focus on. 

Many of the workshop participants have worked on language development and revitalization for many years.   Nevertheless, they said they came away with new ideas during our two days together.  They remain optimistic about the survival of their languages.  We’re grateful to them for taking the time to share their wisdom, creativity and passion for the NWT’s Aboriginal languages. 

-- Pat Ilgok and Helen Balanoff

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