North

N.W.T. government launches action plan for Indigenous languages access, revitalization

The territorial government announced its new language action plan, which includes 17 initiatives for Indigenous language access and revitalization.

'Excitement in the air' with 17 initiatives set for 2022, says director

Seventeen initiatives have been set for Indigenous language access and revitalization in the Northwest Territories as part of the new N.W.T. Indigenous Languages Action Plan. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Seventeen initiatives have been set for Indigenous language access and revitalization in the Northwest Territories.

The territorial government announced its new language action plan on Friday, based off of the N.W.T. Aboriginal Languages Framework, created in May 2017.

Angela James, Director of the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat, is spearheading the project.

She said there's 'excitement in the air' with the focus on Indigenous languages. Following the announcement, she said some members on the new N.W.T. Languages Board told her "we want to work even harder and stronger for our languages."

Angela James, Director of the Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat said there's 'excitement in the air' with the focus on Indigenous languages. (Brandon Maher/CBC )

"We're just coming from that dark century of the 20th century where Indigenous languages were at an ultimate low," James said, referencing the legacy of residential schools.

"We are coming into the new century trying to revitalize and reverse that colonizing as well as that very negative attitude toward languages and culture."

Some initiatives are almost complete, James said, like the expansion of Indigenous language programs in schools across the territory.

Others still need to be fulfilled, including supporting meetings and gatherings for Indigenous language leaders.

"We haven't had a gathering of all of the Indigenous language experts and champions and elders together for quite some time," said James.

She said she believes the last gathering was held in 2013.

'We're going to make sure they do their work'

Caroline Cochrane, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, announced the action plan at the first meeting of the languages board on May 25.

She said when it comes to language access, each department within the territorial government is responsible.

"If we have 11 official languages and you can walk into a government office and you're lucky if you can get English and French, then that says something in itself," she said.

Caroline Cochrane, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, said when it comes to language access, each department within the territorial government is responsible. (Kirsten Fenn/CBC)

"At Education, Culture and Employment, our job is to make sure that they're doing their work, and believe me, we're going to make sure they do their work."

Previous coverage on CBC radio and TV platforms stated that all nine official languages would be included in all government departments by 2022.

James said it will take longer.

Right now, James said, an inter-departmental committee of Indigenous language coordinators has been developed. It meets on a quarterly basis to discuss initiatives, questions and concerns. Coordinators also meet with Indigenous governments and regional Indigenous language coordinators.

"It's quite interesting how that relationship is being built up," she said.

Other initiatives in the action plan include introducing surveys to understand people's attitudes toward Indigenous languages, launching social media campaigns to promote Indigenous language use, and offering training to new and existing interpreters and translators.

The goal is to have the majority of these initiatives completed by 2022.