Indigenous Success Stories: First Nations

March 4, 2022

Kokum scarves honour relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and Ukrainian communities

Global News: Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, people have rallied around the globe in support of Ukraine.

It also marked a time when people in Canada began to learn about the history between the Indigenous peoples and people from Ukraine who immigrated to the Prairies. The historic relationship is on display in the so-called kokum scarves movement, in which Indigenous peoples are wearing the colourful Ukrainian scarves as a sign of solidarity.

Nadya Foty-Oneschuk, a professor of Ukrainian language and culture at the University of Saskatchewan, said that when Ukrainians started immigrating to Canada in 1891, they faced discrimination by other settlers. Yet when they crossed paths with Indigenous peoples, she said they were welcomed and treated with respect.

“We are starting to hear more and more stories about the little-known history of friendship between the first wave of Ukrainian settlers and their Indigenous neighbours,” Foty-Oneschuk said. “They truly helped each other when others discriminated against (the Ukrainians). They’ve always had a genuine connection.”

Foty-Oneschuk said they traded goods including the Ukrainian hustka, which Indigenous peoples adopted as kokum scarves.

That all resulted out of the friendship and partnership,” she said.

Candace Linklater, founder of Relentless Indigenous Women Inc., was one of many who encouraged Indigenous people across Canada to wear their kokum scarves to show support for the Ukrainian community. “What we’re seeing is solidarity,” Linklater said. “We want to be with them in prayer to show that these kokum scarves are that symbol for that solidarity with Ukraine.”

Seeing so much global support, including the kokum scarf movement, gives those some comfort during a difficult time in Ukraine.

May 25, 2021

Ankosé”, “Everything is Connected”,

The Natonal Gallery – The Gallery’s first ever Strategic Plan highlights the 5 Strategic Pillars including “Centre Indigenous ways of knowing and being”. The National Gallery of Canada has also developed new purpose, vision and mission statements which will guide its work over the coming five years. In consultation with four Indigenous Elders the National Gallery was given an Algonquin word to describe its new purpose which is “Ankosé”, “Everything is Connected”, “Tout est relié”. “The Elders brought us to this idea of Ankosé – connection, it means that the Gallery must be connected to the land, the water, the creatures and the sky that surrounds it. To art that connects us, to history, to the present and beyond. It’s a beautiful ideal, one that we want to live up to every day as we build the new National Gallery of Canada,” added Dr. Sasha Suda.

May 11, 2021

Gwich’in Tribal Council and Manitoba Métis Federation

Manitoba Métis Federation – The Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Library and Archives Canada and the NWT Archives are pleased to announce the inscription of two new collections on the Canada Memory of the World Register. These unique and irreplaceable documents highlight the preservation and transmission of Indigenous cultures and knowledge. Created in 2017, the Canada Memory of the World Register promotes the immense diversity of the country’s significant documentary heritage that extends from the initial settling of the land by Indigenous Peoples up to the present time.

The two new inscriptions are:

Gwich’in Tribal Council – Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute fonds
The Gwich’in Tribal Council – Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GTC-GSCI) fonds held at the NWT Archives consists of the complete research and administrative records created by the GTC-GSCI over 25 years of work. The fonds is an irreplaceable collection of Indigenous knowledge, created expressly for the preservation and promotion of Gwich’in culture, language, history, archaeology, place names, land use, ecology, genealogy, ethnobotany and traditional skills. This collection is significant as it is the most rich, comprehensive, and meticulous documentation of Gwich’in knowledge in the world. The Gwich’in Tribal Council and the NWT Archives work together to honour the intent of the Gwich’in Elders who wished to safeguard, preserve and provide access to this knowledge for future generations.

Métis Nation River Lot Settlements Maps

Library and Archives Canada holds plans of Métis river lots as required by the Manitoba Act and the transfer of Rupert’s Land and the North Western Territories. These river lot plans, created by Canadian government surveyors beginning in 1870, are important documents in the understanding of the Métis Nation. They are invaluable to the entire Métis Nation because they show where Métis ancestors lived before their homeland was included in Canada. While these river lot plans do not include any Michif, they clearly show where this language originated in Red River and delineate the families that spoke this unique Métis heritage language.

“The history of the Manitoba Métis originating in Red River is the history of the Métis Nation. We are the only Indigenous people to bring a province into Canadian Confederation. On behalf of our Cabinet and Citizens, I’m proud to see our history recognized by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. These river lots show our original role of strength and leadership in the Red River Settlement and give us a chance to reflect on where our Nation would be today, if we had not been forced off these lands. If we had been allowed to flourish and develop, I know our economic growth would have been impressive.”
– David Chartrand LL.D (hon.), O.M., President, Manitoba Metis Federation

March 31, 2021

Yukon Native Lanuage Cetre

Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) and Yukon Native Language Centre – marked National Aboriginal Language Day by announcing the launch of a significant collection of digital language resources produced as part of a multi-year Yukon First Nations languages documentation and preservation initiative.

The initiative supported Yukon First Nations in building language documentation capacity through training and skills development in the use of technology to create digital language recordings and implement best practices in language documentation. Yukon First Nations that participated were supported to create, annotate and preserve high-quality digital video recordings of Elders speaking Yukon First Nation languages.
The two-year project facilitated the creation and sharing of documentation of approximately 1,200 minutes of
footage resulting in a library of 79 newly-released videos of Yukon First Nation language content. The library of
language videos has been made publicly available on YNLC’s website and YouTube channel in accord with the YNLC principle of accessibility of Yukon First Nations language learning resources.

The library of new digital resources will be instrumental in promoting language learning, and will contribute to the
creation of language learning resources for years to come. In addition, the videos carry immeasurable cultural
knowledge including legends and stories.

March 29, 2021

Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs

Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs – The Assembly will be working with their communities to revive traditional and ancient Mi’kmaw customs by looking to our language for guidance. The Assembly is exploring Mi’kmaw concepts found in Wmɨtkik and Nmɨtiknen. Wmɨtkik is an old Mi’kmaq word, not commonly used today, that may hold the Mi’kmaw concept of how the lands and waters that we are connected to (the territory from which we are from and live) is to be harvested (hunted, fished and gathered) in a manner that respects the resources and all our relations who live or harvest there (Msit No’Kmaq) . Nmɨtiknen holds the concept of territory and the process of how we make decisions together, and much more.

Chiefs in the Kespukwitk District and their respective communities – Acadia, Bear River and Annapolis Valley First Nations – will begin the development of a Nmɨtiknen approach to the stewardship of the Kespukwitk district of Mi’kma’ki. These three communities will be working together, alongside the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and other Mi’kmaw communities on this important work. Together they will be looking into developing a traditional approach to managing the resources and recognizing conservation and protection of all the resources.
As recognized and affirmed by s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Mi’kmaq have inherent rights of self-determination and self-government, including the right to self-regulation and to manage our internal affairs and relationships.

September 21, 2020

Indigenous Education scholar: Onawa McIvor

Uvic News – Language revitalization continues to thrive in Indigenous communities across Canada and the world, according to new research Indigenous education scholar, Onowa McIvor University of Victoria’s newest President’s Chair, received COVID-19 Emergency Research Funding from the Faculty of Education to conduct a short-term study of the effects of COVID-19 on Indigenous language revitalization work. Early findings show that many communities have successfully adapted in ways that allowed for the continuation of language revitalization. The study also illustrates the vital role that language is playing in keeping communities safe and informed during a time of crisis.

“Indigenous communities quickly began to create digital resources in their own languages to teach community members about the new virus as well as how to protect themselves,” says McIvor. This shift to virtual language learning may also have lasting benefits for language revitalization work. Their study shows greater accessibility to new online classes from those who were previously unable to participate in face-to-face learning due to geographic location.

February 21, 2019

HELISET TŦE SḰÁL – ‘Let the Languages Live’

In celebration of the United Nations 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, these groups will host HELISET TŦE SḰÁL (pronounced ha-LEE-sut-te-skwayl) – ‘Let the Languages Live’ – 2019 International Conference on Indigenous Languages in BC from June 24-26. The focus is on Indigenous language revitalization. Indigenous languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate. Approximately 40 per cent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world are in danger of disappearing. The fact that most of these are Indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk. More than 60 Indigenous languages exist in Canada and all are considered endangered. The greatest language diversity exists in British Columbia, which is home to more than 50 per cent of all Indigenous languages in the country.

January 29, 2019

BC First Nations Summit

Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [the Declaration] calls upon nations to take effective measures to protect the right of Indigenous peoples:

  • to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and person.

Article 25 of the Declaration states:

  • “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their distinctive spiritual relationships with their…lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities

“Indigenous Languages are the essence and fabric of Indigenous cultures and are fundamental to our survival, dignity and well‐being as Indigenous peoples. Language is our inherent right and is central to our cultural and spiritual identities as First Nations. Furthermore, language plays a fundamental part in indigenous peoples’ identity by connecting individuals to communities, therefore providing cultural and spiritual context in the daily lives of Indigenous peoples. Grand Chief Edward John, member of the First Nations Summit Political Executive and Co‐chair of the UNESCO IYIL2019 Steering Committee “

B.C. is home to the greatest diversity of Indigenous languages in Canada (more than 50 per cent of all Indigenous languages in the country), with 34 unique First Nations languages and more than 90 dialects.

January 7, 2018

Tessa Ericson, Nak’azdi Whut’en First Nation

Williams Lake Tribune – Creating an application and organizing a summer camp to help get younger people in her central BC community speaking the Nak’azdi dialect of the Dakelh language. Members were fluent in the dialect about three generations ago before the advent of residential schools. “A huge amount of local understanding of culture, ecology, relationship with ancestors, with the past and with the land id all encoded in language” Mark Turin, chairperson of the First Nations and endangered languages program at UBC.

June 12, 2005

First People’s Cultural Council

BC is the only province to establish a Crown Corporation dedicated to leading First Nations language, culture and arts initiatives. First People’s Cultural Council was established in 1990 to provide funding and resources to communities, monitor the status of First Nations languages and develop policy recommendations for First Nations leadership and government.

June 6, 2005

NWT Official Languages Act

In 1984, the Legislative Assembly passed the first Official Languages Act. Modelled after the Federal Official Languages Act, it had two essential purposes; the Act guaranteed equal status for English and French by members of the public using government programs and services, and the Act officially recognized the Aboriginal languages in use in the Northwest Territories.

In 1990, the Legislative Assembly made major amendments to the Act to give greater status to northern Aboriginal languages. Recognizing the official status of Aboriginal languages was intended to preserve and promote Aboriginal cultures through protection of languages. Under section 4 of the language legislation, the official languages of the NWT in addition to English and French are Chipewyan, Cree, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tåîchô.