Six Nations school will spend $732K to train new speakers of Cayuga language

A Six Nations post-secondary school will spend $732,000 over three years to help revitalize the nearly lost Cayuga language.

It's the latest effort to stabilize the language, spoken by fewer than 200 people in Canada

Six Nations Polytechnic will spend $732,000 to grow the Cayuga language. (Six Nations Polytechnic)

A Six Nations post-secondary school will spend $732,000 over three years to help revitalize the nearly lost Cayuga language.

Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) will train eight Cayuga language speakers to teach others. That pool of speakers will also create an archive of resources, and train teachers who will teach the language at the school.

Fewer than 200 people in Canada still speak Cayuga. With this new program, SNP hopes that grows.

"This project will be the most significant effort to stabilize the Cayuga language that our organization has ever initiated," said Rebecca Jamieson, SNP president, in a media release.

"This is a critical opportunity for SNP and the Six Nations community."

The $732,000 is from an Ontario Trillium Foundation Grow grant. Adult learners will get as many as 3,600 hours of immersion language programming. It will also result in at least 500 hours of audio and visual material.

The project stems from an earlier SNP research study looking at how to preserve and grow Ogwehoweh languages.

"When it comes to language revitalization, we recognize that it's important to take action on several fronts," said Sara General, acting director of research and development, in the media release.

The first, she said, is to teach more people the language. The second is to document current first and second language speakers to create archives future generations can learn from.

The project launches in January, the start of the United Nations's International Year of Indigenous Languages.

This isn't the first major outreach SNP has made to grow the language.

In 2016, SNP launched an app that teaches people to speak Cayuga. Last year, it also launched an app to teach people Mohawk.

"These languages are who we are," said Tom Deer, who teaches Mohawk and Cayuga at SNP. "It's the identity of this land."

Statistics Canada shows as of 2016, 55 people speak Cayuga as their mother tongue, and 35 cite it as the language most often spoken at home. Seventy say it's spoken at home as a second language.

In Ontario, about 20 say Cayuga is spoken at home.


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca