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Passion for the Language ep2

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05 February 2021

859 ḵing gan

Donna Johns remembers losing her language. She was seven and had just returned to her grandmother after her first year of residential school.

“I'll never forget... we heard a boat coming from a long distance, and that meant visitors were coming, so we always put on a tea kettle, warm up the soup, set up table... my Grandmother asked me [in the language] to fill up the kettle and put it on the stove, and I was just stunned for a second. She looked at me with really sad eyes and she asked me in Inuvialuktun, 'Did you already forget your language?' I understood that part.”

Today, Donna is one of several Inuvialuktun teachers at East 3 Elementary School in Inuvik who are fighting for the survival of the Inuvialuit language. Inuvialuktun, with its three dialects - Ummarmiut, Kangiryurmiut, and Siglit - is in peril with a majority of native speakers passing away and English being the main language for education and communication in the ISR. According to studies by ICRC, only 10% of an estimated 4,000 Inuvialuit speak any form of traditional language, and only about 4% use it at home. Elders Emma Dick and Sarah Tingmiak appear throughout the program speaking their language explaining how Inuvialuktun got to this precarious state. 

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Ḵwaan sda: Inuvialuit Communications Society