Canada’s Big Chill: Indigenous Languages in Education




Ball, Jessica
McIvor, Onowa

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Sense Publishers


wihtaskamihk kîkâc kahkiyaw nîhîyaw pîkiskwîwina î namatîpayiwa wiya môniyâw onîkânîwak kayâs kâkiy sihcikîcik ka nakinahkwâw nîhiyaw osihcikîwina. atawiya anohc kanâta askiy kâpimipayihtâcik î tipahamok nîhiyaw awâsisak kakisinâmâkosicik mîna apisis î tipahamok mîna ta kakwiy miciminamâ nîhiyawîwin. namoya mâka mitoni tapwîy kontayiwâk î nîsohkamâkawinaw ka miciminamâ nipîkiskwîwinân. pako kwayas ka sihcikiy kîspin tâpwiy kâ kakwiy miciminamâ nîhîyawîwin îkwa tapwiy kwayas ka kiskinâhamowâyâ kicowâsim’sinân. ôma masinayikanis îwihcikâtîw tânihki kîkâc kâ namatîpayicik nipîkiskwîwinân îkwa takahki sihcikîwina mîna misowiy kâ apicihtâcik ka pasikwînahkwâw nîhiyawîwin nanântawisi. (Translated into Nîhîyawîwin (Northern Cree) [crk], a language of Canada, by Art Napoleon) Canada’s Indigenous languages are at risk of extinction because of government policies that have actively opposed or neglected them. A few positive steps by government include investments in Aboriginal Head Start, a culturally based early childhood program, as well as a federal Aboriginal Languages Initiative. Overall, however, government and public schools have yet to demonstrate serious support for Indigenous language revitalization. Language-in-education policies must address the historically and legislatively created needs of Indigenous Peoples to increase the number of Indigenous language speakers and honor the right of Indigenous children to be educated in their language and according to their heritage, with culturally meaningful curricula, cultural safety, and dignity. This chapter describes how Canada arrived at a state of Indigenous language devastation, then explores some promising developments in community-driven heritage language teaching, and finally presents an ecologically comprehensive strategy for Indigenous language revitalization that draws on and goes beyond the roles of formal schooling. It’s been a cold 130 years for Canada’s first languages, and the thaw is still awaited. (Fettes & Norton, 2000: 29)




Ball, J. & McIvor, O. (2013). Canada’s big chill: Indigenous languages in education. In C. Benson & K. Kosonen (Eds.), Language issues in comparative education: Inclusive teaching and learning in non-dominant languages and cultures (pp. 19-38). Sense Publishers.