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Délįnę women team up to teach Indigenous languages through cooking

Learning mother tongue with moose tongue? How two Délįnę women teamed up to teach traditional languages with bannock and stews

North Slavey cook teaches traditional dishes in traditional language

Délįnę home cook Marion Mackeinzo gets ready to whip up a feast. Mackeinzo is the new star of Délįnę Language cooking videos. (Submitted by Marion Mackeinzo)

A Sahtu Dene language group is helping keep a traditional language alive by teaching how to cook traditional foods.

Sahtu Dene Council Délįnę Language Committee member Mary Ann Vital teamed up with Délįnę home chef Marion Mackeinzo earlier this month to launch a series of social media cooking videos in North Slavey.

"I'm so blessed to do this video because I really wanted to work with our youth," Vital told CBC.

The Northwest Territories is home to 11 official languages with nine Indigenous languages belonging to three language families — Dene-Athapaskan, Inuit or Algonquian. There are five official Dene-Athapaskan languages spoke in the N.W.T. North Slavey is spoken primarily in Délįnę, Yellowknife/Ndilo, and Tulita 

Most youth understand traditional Dene languages, including North Slavey, but not everyone can speak it, Vital said. The women are hopeful the videos will help the younger generation learn and retain more words.

'At first, I was kind of nervous'

So far, two recipe video in North Slavey have been posted. They show how to make fan favourites bannock or łehte,́ and caribou stew. For some viewers, it was the first time learning certain words.

"I was surprised to see how many comments [we got] through my Facebook, especially with the young ones … we got a lot of positive remarks," Vital said. 

Sahtu Dene Council Délįnę Language Committee member Mary Ann Vital says most Dene youth understand traditional languages but not everyone can speak it. She is hoping the videos will help the younger generation learn and retain more words. (Submitted by Mary Ann Vital)

"At first I was kind of nervous," Mackeinzo said about being the star of the new cooking videos, but as a self-proclaimed cook she realized the opportunity she had to share her love of language and cooking. 

Using ingredients you would find in most northern homes makes it even more relatable.

"I cook anything, anything Aboriginal like caribou, moose, lake trout … then I use western flavour to touch it up," Mackeinzo said with a laugh.

Videos are set to release on Tuesdays with the mini social cooking series set to run for the rest of the month. 

Next week, stay tuned for a fish dish.

With files from Wanda McLeod

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