The Tsuut’ina Nation of Alberta, Canada is trying to save its language, in part by turning to technology and focusing on its youth.
“Essentially it’s going to be our children and young people with the help of our elders that are going to save our language,” said Steven Crowchild, director of the Tsuut’ina Gunaha Institute, the nation’s language revitalization program.
Crowchild said less than 40 people are fluent in the language, while the population is overwhelmingly young, with babies born into the nation every day. “Our language is really going to survive with the children, so we’re targeting the children.”
There is a generation gap when it comes to the language, according to Crowchild, with elders teaching the young, but parents unable to communicate.
The reason for the loss involves “residential schools” — which attempted to purge traditions and language from First Nations — to policies like the Indian Act, which meant women were forced to move or lose their status, he said.
“Women are the keepers of our language, they’re the ones who comfort the children and spend a lot of time with the children,” said Crowchild, on the importance of women to this effort.