Edward John, an executive member of the First Nations Summit, is calling for urgent efforts in B.C. to revive Indigenous languages. He said the 6,000 to 7,000 languages spoken by Native peoples around the world are “the essential component of cultural heritage” and should get international attention and support to ensure their survival. John spoke at a three-day meeting of language experts at U.N. Headquarters in New York.
“The priority focus that I hear from all of the experts is, create fluent speakers,” he said. “That’s what you need to do. How do you do it? That’s the discussion taking place.”
“There’s been a large focus on literacy, developing books and calendars and dictionaries” in Indigenous languages, John said, “but not as much of an effort in fluency.”
He said some languages have less than a handful of fluent speakers left, “and when they’re gone that language is gone and everything — everything about that culture and that heritage is gone as well,” John said.