Street signs in 4 languages popping up in Fort Smith

Community leaders are looking to expand on the idea and add Indigenous languages to other projects, like radio shows, films and culture camps.

Stop signs include English, French, Cree and Chipewyan translations

Stop signs across Fort Smith, N.W.T., will be replaced with new signs that show 'stop' in four languages: English, French, Cree and Chipewyan. (Rashmi Patel)

Stop signs in Fort Smith, N.W.T., are getting a makeover.

"Stop" will be written in four languages: English, French, Cree and Chipewyan.

Community leaders are looking to expand on that idea and add Indigenous languages to other projects.

Vance Sanderson, coordinator of the Northwest Territories Métis Nation Language Program, initiated the stop sign project in Fort Smith.

"I think it's only going to grow and become stronger within how we speak our languages," said Sanderson.

"Such as doing radio shows, making films, doing more material from elder stories, a lot of culture camps on the land and documenting that. So we're going to see where it goes."

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There's been a push across the territory to revitalize Indigenous languages, with grocery stores getting on board, new apps with voice tracks, and social media campaigns encouraging people to speak their traditional tongue.

Sanderson says he's motivated by the town's positive response to create more language projects.

"We're also putting up an electronic screen outside different buildings and do 'word of the week' and 'word of the day' and any language that the community wants to promote."

Signs in Cree and Chipewyan at Kaeser's grocery store in Fort Smith. (submitted by Vance Sanderson)

Fort Smith Mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley is also optimistic about expanding language services throughout the town.

"What I think is a good goal for the future of our community is having the languages on the signs in four different languages identifying our town structures like the town hall, our library, the rec centre, the arena, our water plant," said Napier-Buckley.

"Those are the four languages taught in our schools and I think it's important to have visibility of our Indigenous languages throughout our community."

Installation of the new signs started this week with the goal to have them located at every traffic stop in town.