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Passion for the Language ep1

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05 février 2021


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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More from this channel: Inuvialuit Communications Society