Say It First

Indigenous Language Revitalization

First Nations Language Keepers Conference Saskatoon, November 2014

From left to right: November 26, 2014. Darren Okemaysim - Languages Consultant, Mike Parkhill and Dorothy Myo –President.
From left to right: November 26, 2014. Darren Okemaysim - Languages Consultant, Mike Parkhill and Dorothy Myo –President.

Here we are at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre's huge event called the First Nations Language Keepers Conference with 350 plus attendees. The hotel is packed with people dedicated to keeping the Native Languages vibrant.

I still do not know the right answer to the problem of which writing style to use in my Cree books. One Elder says write it the way it is learned most easily and the way she uses it with others on Facebook. Darren, being a trained linguist, is saying let's standardize on a pure writing style so all kids in all schools can learn the same way across the province. One short term view, one long term view. They are both right; I'm getting the sense the answer is all about timing. I definitely favour the one writing style approach, but if the books aren't going to be read, then this concept is before its time. Kind of de facto - de jure standard argument. One being adopted widely and one which should be adopted.

Mike Parkhill Founder,


Passing The Buck


I recently had a phone conversation with a Native gentleman from Saskatchewan when he asked me about buying cheap books written in Cree. He had seen me speak a few months earlier and liked the idea of populating the Band Schools with Native Language books written in phonetics and their Forefathers' language and English, a technique developed by a Maliseet linguist named Veronica Atwin from New Brunswick.

I asked this man why he was interested in books and he matter-of-factly said, "So our children can learn their own language."

"Why the interest?" I questioned.

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Lac LaCroix First Nation Talent

Travelling from First Nation to First Nation, I am blessed with the ability to see great work developed by tenacious people. Specifically, the work I am talking about is the individual efforts put into promotion of the Native Languages. Whenever the topic is brought up, people say, "Oh, you should talk to David about his songs," or "You should see the talented pictures drawn by Casey." In many cases, books have already been put together and beautifully illustrated locally, lexicons have been indexed, songs have been translated and games have been created. Why then do Native Language teachers spend just over two hours per day creating their own content?

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‘Indigitization’ is more of a concept I would like to introduce, than just a new word. This new word is a combination of digitization and Indigenous content. Digitizing Indigenous content - Indigitization.

The concept itself is about much more than just digitizing content. The concept also means to embrace the thought that digitized material needs to be stored in a manner that one's target audience can readily consume the product at will in the form it can be displayed in. It makes sense to produce this material in a form to be consumed because more than enough digital content already exists for a lot of already endangered languages. The problem comes with the storage and retrieval of this content. If not properly indexed, retrieving it in a manner that can be useful becomes so burdensome, most people abandon the effort.

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