Decolonizing Language Revitalization



September 25, 2013 – How has Eurocentric anthropology and linguistics affected the way we interpret our elders and ancestors who share their cultural knowledge with foreign researchers?

Join us for a presentation with Khelsilem Rivers and April Charlo, indigenous peoples from community-based and cultural revitalization backgrounds, who will be discussing decolonization of language revitalization. Their presentation and open dialogue will address the context of rapid language loss and decline, and how colonization has affected or is embedded in the strategies of revitalization.

In an effort to revitalize Indigenous languages, communities may have unknowingly adopted or assimilated colonized ways of thinking as they invest interest and attempt to repair or restore ties to culture and language. Are we learning to speak Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Nēhiyawēwin, Kanien’kéha, et all with an English-mind or are we learning to speak Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Nēhiyawēwin, Kanien’kéha with a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Nēhiyaw, Kanien’keháka mind?

Indigenous languages represent one of the darkest ways in which ethnocide and cultural genocide have occurred. It is expected in the next twenty-five years over 700 of the worlds Indigenous languages will be forgotten. In the Vancouver area alone, the two Indigenous languages are considered critical endangered; Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) language has five to seven fluent speakers and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm has one fluent speaker left.

Decolonizing Language Revitalization aims to put forward perspectives of shifting values, cultural understandings, and impacts on community. It is the stories we tell ourselves (as a people) that impacts who we believe we are, and then who we become. But if the stories — even including, or especially the Indigenous ones — are filtered through colonialism, we have become a different people because of it.

April Charlo from Bitterroot Salish people and is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Montana.

Khelsilem Rivers is a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh-Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw language revitalization activist from Vancouver.

Supported by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement
http://sfuwoodwards.ca/index.php/community

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