Help Preserve Our Culture
Specific actions proposed by Elders that individuals can take to preserve and strengthen First Nation, Métis, and Inuit languages and cultures.
Do not forget our languages
We should begin our day with prayer; as the sun rises, we give thanks for another day. We give thanks for the land and all the creatures who share it with us. Our children and grandchildren must hear it so they don't forget it, and they too will embrace the words, and they too will echo these in prayer.
Speak and write our languages
We live in a world where preservation has become an important tool. While we have spoken about the importance of learning to speak our language, it is also important to equip our children and grandchildren with the tools to write our languages so that they can use them to learn abstract concepts in a world filled with technology.
Teach and learn our languages
There is opportunity to teach and learn language all around us. It does not, in every instance, require a classroom to learn. The voice is a powerful tool. It has the power to pray, it has the power to move people to action, to injure, to empower, to sing and to teach. We teach by our actions, by modeling those behaviours that construct knowledge through speech. Our kitchens can become havens for learning. We must look beyond the four walls of classrooms if we truly desire to revitalize our languages.
Respect each other's dialects: Do not ridicule how others speak
Humour exists in all of us and is a particularly strong aspect of First Nation, Inuit and Métis cultures. In the face of tragic situations, we have often risen from the depths of sadness by laughing at ourselves and at each other, not maliciously, but in a way that reflects on our imperfections openly and honestly. However, at the same time, we have ridiculed one another for mispronouncing words or phrases when a person is trying to learn one of our languages. Ridiculed into feeling embarrassed, we do not try again. We must be mindful to encourage those who make concerted efforts to speak and to give them praise for wanting to learn.
Focus on young people
Young people are the hope of our future. They must not only be nurtured to embrace and learn their languages and cultures, but also be mentored to embrace both worlds and to equip themselves with the tools needed to function in both worlds. Language and culture provide the tools to build good character - a character that emulates the values of respect, humility, kindness, empathy and good leadership. Our way strives to create the best in our people.
Starting with our own homes, strengthen the will of the people to bring back our languages
Our homes are the cradles for our children and grandchildren. They should be filled with the lingering smell of sweet grass, sage, tobacco or cedar or with the light of our qulliq. Our fires should be kept burning, with language as the fuel. In other words, we must practice our living culture in our homes; this is where everything should begin. All other external situations should reinforce what is practiced at home.
Work together to build a foundation for our peoples
A tremendous amount of work has been done by many people over the last 40 years. Some have worked quietly in the background and others have taken a more direct leadership role to raise awareness of the state of our languages and our cultures. No one person can lay claim to having done it all on his or her own. Many have carried the torch, and many of those early crusaders have passed on to the spirit world. Their memories and their work live on in the work we do today. Through this initiative, we hope their efforts and voices will not have been in vain.
Through common challenges, we have been brought together as nations; to work together to create that foundation of hope that our First Nation, Inuit and Métis languages will once again take their rightful place in this country. We are the First Peoples - our languages and cultures are the first languages and cultures of this country and must be accorded that status at every level of government, in the community and in our homes.
Speak with a united voice - although we have different languages, we seek one and the same thing
Our voices have been brought together by a common need - one that speaks of the preservation, revitalization and maintenance of all First Nation, Inuit and Métis languages and cultures. Our national political organizations must speak with a united voice. Together, they must call to action all governments, communities, institutions and organizations and urge all peoples to support our efforts to create partnerships and support mechanisms to encourage First Nation, Inuit and Métis linguistic and cultural initiatives. We must not be deterred by the actions of those who may wish to see this endeavour fail.