A comprehensive survey of B.C. First Nations languages has been released which for the first time includes all 34 First Nation languages in B.C.
According to the 2022 First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s (FPCC’s) Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages , there has been an increase in semi-speakers and immersion learning opportunities, as well as more than 3,000 new learners.
FPCC surveys First Nations communities to collect information that tracks the accomplishments around language learning.
The report includes information on the state of Dakelh, which is also known as Carrier, and spoken in the central Interior of B.C. including the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation in Prince George.
A s of 2022, there are 310 fluent speakers of Dakelh and 729 semi-speakers for a total of 1,039 speakers.
The report found 13 communities that speak Dakelh, with nine participating in the study, for a population of 7,743 with 698 reported language learners.
There are two Dakelh language nests, which are immersive preschool programs, in the communities of Saik’uz First Nation and Stellat’en First Nation west of Prince George.
There are also six head start programs and four other ECE programs that teach Dakelh, as well as four First Nations Schools, 15 public schools, and two adult community programs.
The report says that access to immersion opportunities across all domains for children or adults is critically important to building language fluency.
FPCC has published a report every four years since 2010, and the 2022 report gathered information from 167 First Nations communities in B.C., reporting on 140,195 First Nations people.
However, the 2022 report was challenging as it covered a timespan in which First Nations in the province faced many difficult circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic and record wildfires and flooding, which caused widespread evacuations and disruptions to people’s lives.
Despite this, language revitalization work has continued and the report highlights developments in the growth of community-based language revitalization projects across the province.
Of note are the number of language nests for pre-school-aged children, which more than tripled, from 10 to 32, since the last report four years ago. More children are also learning their First Nations language as their mother tongue at home.
Adult language learning opportunities are also on the rise. Many adults who may not have access to community-run language programs are learning their languages with online language tools such as FirstVoices.com and through one-on-one immersion programs.
“As we mobilize for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, 2022–32, I’m pleased to learn from this report that many First Nations communities are making progress on their goals to bring their languages to life,” said British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
“The hard work of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and other First Nations organizations and the growth of funding and programs are nurturing the progress of language revitalization in the province.”
He added that more work needs to be done to reverse the damage done by a long history of discriminatory government policies and practices, and urges all levels of government to intensify and strengthen their support for First Nations in order to build on these successes.
“I would like to congratulate our youth, adult learners and language teachers and speakers who have successfully utilized resources during a very difficult time – the COVID-19 pandemic and climate emergencies – and have continued the work to revitalize and maintain languages within their families and communities.”
You can read the full 2022 Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages online.