Our Impact Cultural Heritage

Our
Impact

The revitalization and practice of Indigenous languages, arts and cultural heritage have clear economic, health and environmental benefits. Beyond these tangible impacts, language, arts and cultural heritage are vital in ways that are deeply felt by Indigenous people but are not easily put into words. They shape our existence and identity as people and underlie all that we are and all that we do. 

“I was just amazed at myself how the language just started to pour out because I already heard it as a child. It was there, deep down, but I never did speak it. This program has helped me to have that release.” 

Reclaiming My Language Program Participant

Cultural Diversity

The land known today as British Columbia is one of the most culturally diverse areas in the world. There are 204 Indigenous communities belonging to approximately 40 nations and cultural groups in the province. There are also approximately 34 Indigenous languages and over 90 language dialects within seven language families that are Indigenous to B.C. 

Everyone’s life is enriched by the unique and varied worldviews embodied in Indigenous languages, arts and cultures because they widen our perspectives on life and help us see things in new ways. Indigenous languages contain precious knowledge and concepts that often cannot be translated into English. The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation’s programs nourish a culturally diverse society in which people can be accepted and valued for who they are, and as a result, they are able to express their culture fully. Cultural diversity is also essential because it helps us find new and innovative solutions to problems by fostering interrelationships and learning between peoples. 

“Gaining that knowledge of what the language actually is, it’s really a design and a code that connects us to all of creation that has been laid down since ancient times. To be able to speak to the salmon someday, it’s the basis of our survival.”

J, SINTEN John Elliott
Elder and Knowledge Keeper (Tsartlip First Nation)

Reconciliation

Supporting Indigenous-led movements is one way that non-Indigenous allies can take action in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. The average Canadian lives a lifestyle that is rooted in the historic and ongoing injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples and Indigenous lands, and Canadians can demonstrate reciprocity and respect by supporting Indigenous cultural reclamation.  

As culture and language loss are a direct result of colonial oppression, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for strong support for the revitalization of Indigenous languages, arts and cultural heritage as a path towards healing and making amends. Donating to the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation’s programs is one way that Canadians can take steps towards reconciling with Indigenous peoples.  

Economic Development

The programs and initiatives the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation funds create jobs in which Indigenous people develop and apply their Indigenous expertise to contribute to B.C.’s economic growth. Program participants have gone on to work in a diversity of roles, as many of the skills and experiences gained through the programs and initiatives we fund have broad applications beyond the sector of Indigenous languages, arts and cultural heritage. As one of the few organizations that employ people specifically for their Indigenous knowledge and that supports a decolonized model of Indigenous economic development, the Foundation’s work is a crucial component of economic growth.

“If we can help our First Nations people to have a language of their own, they’ll have their own laws and beliefs that will help the future generations to allow this land to be well. We don’t have to destroy it all. It can be here for the future generations; that’s built into our languages.” 

J, SINTEN John Elliott
Elder and Knowledge Keeper (Tsartlip First Nation)

Environmental Benefits

Beyond the incalculable benefits to Indigenous people, there are far-reaching benefits to the revitalization of Indigenous languages, arts and cultural heritage for all people. Indigenous languages, arts and cultures contain valuable traditional ecological knowledge that is crucially needed to inform environmental management strategies for navigating the climate emergency we are currently facing. If Indigenous languages and cultures are lost, the environmental knowledge contained within them cannot be accessed until the languages and cultures are living again. 

Health and Social Benefits

Language is interconnected with identity, culture and community. Language loss has been linked to mental and physical health disparities, while a connection to one’s language has been shown to be a protective factor for community health and wellness. Language and culture support strong and thriving Indigenous communities. 

Indigenous Rights

Indigenous languages, arts and cultural heritage contain our rules for governance, our health and social systems, and our land management practices. Our languages, arts and cultural heritage are at the heart of self-determination and self-governance and demonstrate our connection and inherent rights to the lands and waters we call home. By supporting the resurgence of our languages, arts and cultural heritage, you are supporting our inherent rights in alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

“As far as I’m concerned, language is our first birthright; we are born into the language, none of us own the language; we belong to the land, we don’t own the land; we have a sacred responsibility. Our belief system comes out in our language and knowledge as language.”

J,SINTEN John Elliott
Elder and Knowledge Keeper (Tsartlip First Nation)