Educators and leaders
from Stoney Nakoda are using an immersive approach to teach the
Kelmia Poucette, left,
has grown up with the language of Stoney, but doesn't speak
it. Trent Fox, one of the organizers of a new language re-awakening
program, says he hopes the course can help pass the language
on to future generations. (Terri Trembath/CBC News)
A new language reawakening program is giving young adults of Stoney
Nakoda First Nation in Alberta a fully immersive experience
with the goal of reclaiming the Stoney language and keeping it alive
for generations to come.
For five months, a group of 12 people between the ages of 18 and
26 will be taught Stoney, known locally as lethka, in the First
Nation nestled in the foothills west of Calgary.
Mentors including knowledge keepers, pipe holders and elders
use traditional activities and ceremony to teach the language.
Trent Fox, one of the organizers, says the hope is for the participants
to speak basic sentences as a symbol of pride and respect.
"Essentially, they're doing different cultural activities
throughout the summer, they're being taught, they're just being
spoken to in the language," Fox said.
Elder Tina Fox said the
Stoney language is disappearing in young children. (Terri
Kelmia Poucette, 18, has grown up with the language but doesn't
speak it. She and most of the participants in the group are referred
to as silent speakers.
"I want to speak to my Grandma
because it's hard to
speak to her," Poucette said. "She doesn't know English."
Elder Tina Fox said while there are about 2,000 fluent speakers,
the language is disappearing in young children.
"We have no old country to go back to, so we have to protect
our language and keep it strong," Tina said.
The ultimate goal is for these students to hold a basic conversation
and help pass the language on to future generations, Fox said.
"My main objective is that they'll be using kinship terms
because [that] way, they'll start to address their own family members
in a way that is culturally appropriate," Fox said.