Khelsilem shares the reasons we need thriving indigenous languages and how we can make it happen, on TEDx

What does it mean to live by your name, your indigenous name, not your English (or “government” name) that comes from the territory you grew up in?  A lot of patient spelling-it-out introductions… Squamish language speaker and teacher, Khelsilem explores this question and the importance of indigenous language, and being generous as a language teacher, in this 8 minute TEDx talk from October 2017.

Some beautiful take-aways:

  • When you are learning a language, it’s really important to make mistakes.
  • It’s not a story of a dying language. That is a myth. Language learning is going up.
  • Young people are committing themselves to becoming speakers of their indigenous languages, despite any major support or funding from government.
  • Can we actively reverse the policy of residential schools, of systematically destroying language, by enshrining the right of indigenous people to have their children educated in their indigenous language?
  • What if it was a right and policy that all local children could learn the indigenous language of their neighbourhood? Might an indigenous community gift its language to its neighbouring community, as a way of creating meaningful reconciliation between communities?
  • There are 60 indigenous languages in Canada. Most of them are in BC.
  • There is something beautiful about hearing the languages of the land that we come from.
  • The work that is happening right now is about repairing a relationship – territory acknowledgements at the beginning of a meeting, landmarkers, carvings and welcome figures. The next step is about families and communities supporting the revitalization of indigenous languages as part of this new relationship we’re forming.

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