25 3 / 2014
The unquestioned theory in language revitalization work is that languages evolve. It is stated as fact, without any understanding or framework for how they evolve.
Endangered heritage languages are being overwhelmed by a dominant language. In this context the unquestioned evolution belief leads to choices made by the heritage language community without serious consideration.
Language communities facing external danger or threats desire to ensure its survival. Foolish or hasty decisions are made in an effort to maintain something.
The first hasty decision is the quick modernization of the heritage language. The second is the development of a large new vocabulary added to the lexicon of concepts based from the dominating language.
These two choices are said to be inevitable, without question. “Languages evolve” and “Languages change” I often hear.
What becomes forgotten in the survival is why we felt a need to reverse the decline of our heritage languages. Our oldest elders who wanted to see our language thrived again into the future felt so not because of vocabulary or grammar structures, but because the language pointed to a way of life they cherished and believed in. It was a way of orienting oneself and ones community based on the understanding and worldview that language connected one to.
The language is not the important part here. The way of life the language comes from is what we should be really striving for.
The belief is we can do both. We can modernize our languages and simultaneously maintain a way of being that the language developed from.
However, we cannot do both when the former is thought of as inevitable and without question. The former will further colonize the later. I feel that most resemblances will fade away until the future generations are essentially speaking the dominant language, but with the heritage language sounds.
I am not really interested in revitalizing just my language. I am interested in reclaiming a way of life that the language allows me access and understanding of, to then be able to make into aspects of my life.
Language is not the goal: community is.
20 3 / 2014
I see two consistent problems with Indigenous language app development and products.
The first is that they are consistently translation based. Translation to or from English is another colonization of our Indigenous languages.
The second is that the curriculum they are based on (if they are even based on anything at all) are unproven at creating confident speakers who can engage in frequent conversations with relative ease in speaking performance. There is no measurement on whether the format the language is being presented in actually creates language acquisition by the learner. Translation is not how one becomes a speaker. Disagree? Have you studied how language acquisition works and how creating fluency work? Most likely — neither have these app developers!
The typical response to this feedback is that they are tools meant to assist a language learner. Now that would be laudable if it weren’t also true that the development of these app products are expensive (in time and money) and lead to very little results…so far.
In bang for buck, they have not proven effective in my opinion.
I am highly critical of this work because it’s depressing to see communities using the last years of their elders life translating for an app. I get frustrated when funders and groups spend thousands, hundreds of thousand, and even millions trying to help reverse the decline of our Indigenous language when there are far more effective tools that need to be built and far more needed strategies that need support.
With that being said… I have a simple app idea to fulfill a basic language regeneration need. That is the ability to type and text on mobile platforms in our orthographies. If you know any folks with app development expertise to connect me with, introduce us!!! Haha
19 3 / 2014
There’s an aspect to contemporary colonialism where a large section of our people will integrate, and continue to integrate.
However, there will always be outliers dancing on edge, carrying on an older way of being into the future. It is not a nostalgic effort of a perceived better time, but that the times we once had had some good and quality in it that’s important now and in the future.
This narrative that neither side is controlling: assimilation and integration. Meanwhile, the conditions are being set by those with power. Imagine a pathway built where straying leads to difficulty. The powerful convince some of our people to promote their pathway.
The powerful convince some it is the only plausible or legitimate way. Perhaps there is some truth in that. But there will always be the outliers. Those dancing on the edge ready and willing to challenge the general order of things.
My ancestors left me responsibilities and tasks to complete. Have I checked to see what they left for me? Was a reckless abandonment of the lifestyle they practiced for thousands of years part of that? Times have indeed change my friends. Yet innovation was traditional. No nostalgic desires but desires for freedom.
The freedom to choose the aspects of our life.
Including the important choice to revisit choices made from inside the oppressive colonialism by those who walked before us.
It is not absolute. The future can be ours. It can be anything we want it to be.
And maybe we just don’t want it to be some of what the colonizers offered and are offering.
17 3 / 2014
Khelsilem on Indigenous Participation in Canadian Elections and Meaningful Ways To Create Lasting Change
I wanted to share my response to a question my cousin Carleen posed on my Facebook wall. It is an important question. I’ve been asked it before, and will be asked again, so perhaps sharing it here will be useful.
Carleen: What do we do to create a better place for Indigenous peoples here in Canada? If we don’t vote, if we don’t push for implementation of our title & rights — what shall we do?*
Khelsilem: My non-participation in the Canadian elections is not related to my views on voting as a mechanism for sustainable and just change in Canada. I do not vote because I am not Canadian. It is not related to views on whether it’s effective or not effective. Does that make sense?
On the issue of Indigenous peoples voting, I think of what my late great grandfather Andy Paull said on the question of Indigenous people attaining the right to vote in Canada: “You would be merely selling your birthright for the doubtful privilege of putting a cross on a ballot every four years.”
It is a very simple, minute, and symbolic aspect of the Canadian project of assimilation and colonialism when Indigenous peoples vote in Canadian elections. Every ballot cast is a win for the colonizers who wanted us assimilated.
I don’t advocate or believe we need to push for the “implementation” of anything. I feel that’s an old way of thinking that has compromised the land and people, time and time again.
I heard these two quotes while in Aotearoa, “You have no rights until you fulfil your responsibilities”, and “You do not demand self-determination; you live it”.
There are those who stand on the soap box and preach rights and title, and then there are those who live it. We create a better place for Indigenous people in Canada when we work towards greater political autonomy and a restrengthening of our ability and capacity to carry out our self-determination and jurisdiction, and our ability and capacity to respond in-kind when the Canadian state begins to battle us for carrying out those responsibilities (think of self-determination as a responsibility, more than a right; think of traditional food harvesting as a responsibility, more than a right; think of the approval or disapproval of development projects on our territories as a responsibility, more than a right.)
The Canadian state has a history of responding to these acts with violence or threats of violence. They have actively tried to dismantle us from doing these things because it forces the issue to an arena they have no control over.
Voting, courts, well-articulated press releases, parliament hearings, etc. are all on their terms.
The times we create our own terms for forcing the issue, they respond harshly.
But our leaders, both past and present, passively capitulate to the Canadian government instead of being real in our existence as nations.
As well as the fact that there will always be leaders and politicians ready and willing to compromise when it serves them or their base. So quality coordination amongst the many nations is always difficult.
Those are a few of my thoughts on creating a better place for Indigenous peoples here in Canada. There are of course many other ways too.
*I made minor edits to her original question for clarity. Here is a link to the original posting and exchange.
17 3 / 2014
Music, not books, will bring joy and excitement to reversing the decline of our heritage languages. We need musicians, artists, and creative types more than anything. If we desire to make it anywhere, we would be wise to invest in our youth now in nurturing and developing their musicality. It will grow exponentially in benefit and wealth to the community in time.
11 3 / 2014
I am on a quest…
Who are the champions of language within your community? Who wholeheartedly down to their soul believe in the dream of a revitalized heritage language?
(I am particularly interested in folks who live within a 2-3 hour drive from North Vancouver, but all are welcome to drop names. I want to know who else is out there!)
Name the champions! 1…2…3….GO!
07 3 / 2014
"Language Revitalization" is a broad concept that doesn’t accurately or truly emphasize the work we are actually engaged in.
We are actually involved in reversing a shift in language decline. Reversing the language shift refers to the way in which a language was at one time a major component of a community and culture. It refers to the decline that has come from any myriad of sources where the number of speakers stopped growing but instead declined. Our work is to reverse that decline.
"Language revitalization" can involve work that is about heritage language, and involves the promotion of the language, but it doesn’t immediate describe the actual goals:
… to building of community.
A language that is in decline can be reversed. It can make a turn towards a healthier status. It can become the language of the community again.
But it involves that community choosing to prioritize the reversing of the language shift from decline to increase. To increase the number of fluent speakers is our first step to restoring a community of language use, both habitual and exclusive.
04 3 / 2014
04 3 / 2014
03 3 / 2014