Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Languages Preserved
The federal government has announced funding which will support a range of activities which will maintain and revitalize the Aboriginal languages through workshops, camps, curriculum development and documentary film-making to name just a few.
Mike Allen, member of parliament for Tobique-Mactaquac, made the announcement on February 19 at Woodstock, New Brunswick on behalf of the Honourable Josee Verner, minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women, and Official Languages. "The government of Canada is pleased to provide this funding as part of its support for Aboriginal language preservation," Verner said. "Providing tools and materials for the preservation and teaching of First Nations languages will help safeguard an important part of Canadian heritage."
The funding, which amounted to $737,613, will be given to the Assembly of First Nations regional office for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island who will spearhead the project over a three-year period. "Languages play an important role in community and culture," said Allen. "These funds will help the AFN to undertake important work to document, promote and provide learning opportunities for the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet languages."
The Aboriginal Languages Initiative was established in 1998 in response to government commitments to work with Aboriginal people to preserve and protect Aboriginal languages. In 2007-08, the program delivered five million dollars in support of First Nations, Michif, and Inuit languages. Twenty-two Aboriginal organizations entered into agreements for language programs in their communities, with the AFN-NB/PEI being one of them.
Regional Chief Len Tomah, a member of the Woodstock First Nation, said the funds will provide organizers an opportunity to get the materials needed to carry out the work. "It will allow the Elders to spend time with our youth and children to teach them about their language and culture and pass down valuable knowledge that will live on forever from one generation to another." Maliseet and Mi'kmaq are closely related and were separated fairly recently. They were the only languages spoken in the present-day Maritime provinces when the first Europeans arrived. As is the case with all indigenous languages, the younger generations often do not consider it their first language, and speak mostly English or French.
Recently, Statistics Canada released data from the 2006 census that showed nearly all of Canada's Aboriginal languages are reporting fewer members who can speak their ancestral tongue fluently, and in some instances are down to a handful of speakers. It's estimated all lost about one-third of their mother-tongue speakers during the first half of the 1900s.
The program is delivered by Aboriginal organizations who submit proposals that meet requirements. The AFN-NB/PEI program is one of 17 communities in the two provinces which have received funding since 2006 to be developed and facilitated by a third party partnership. The expected commencement date and training of teachers are to be announced by the AFN shortly.
Charles Drouin, spokesperson for Canadian Heritage explained that language is widely regarded as the vehicle by which societies reflect the unique world views to which they are linked.
"The overall goal of the Aboriginal Languages Initiative is to help preserve and promote Aboriginal languages for future generations of Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians," he said, adding that language is a critical component in the maintenance and transmission of cultural identity.
"Specific objectives of the program are to increase the number of language speakers by expanding the domains in which languages are spoken, and supporting intergenerational language speaking opportunities."