Join us in Celebrating the Decade!

The UN International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032) is a global observance intended to draw attention to the critical status of Indigenous languages worldwide and to mobilize coordinated action towards their protection and advancement.

Why a Decade of Indigenous Languages?

Indigenous languages matter because Indigenous people matter. Indigenous languages are at the heart of who we are, connecting us to our cultures, identities, ancestors, and the land.

For Indigenous people, knowing and being able to speak our languages is recognized as a fundamental human right. Being connected to them is key to our self-determination. In addition, traditional Indigenous knowledge about the environment and resource management is built into the fabric of Indigenous languages. This knowledge that is critical to the survival of all people and the planet in the face of climate change.

Despite their immense value, many Indigenous languages around the world face threats to their continued existence having been disrupted through centuries of colonization. Those threats are ongoing today and the loss of Indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at critical risk.

In response to this global issue, the United Nations General Assembly declared the period of 2022-2032 the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. This was a key outcome of the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) and a resolution of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The Decade of Indigenous Languages is an opportunity to raise awareness of the status of Indigenous languages across the globe and to mobilize national and international actions to protect, revitalize, and advance them. There’s a growing movement underway, driven by Indigenous people, to rebuild and secure the vitality of our languages for future generations. The Decade is an opportunity to elevate these efforts.

The State of Indigenous Languages in B.C.

The Decade of Indigenous Languages is a time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike to recognize the importance and celebrate the incredible diversity of Indigenous languages. British Columbia is unique within Canada with 34 distinct First Nations languages and more than 90 dialects.

Many of these languages are facing ongoing threats to their vitality. The last four years have been an incredibly tough time to work on language revitalization with so many challenging circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and record wildfires and flooding causing evacuations in many First Nations communities, some of which continue to this day.

In spite of these challenges, there are many reasons to be hopeful about language revitalization in B.C. There’s been positive progress with the development of federal language legislation, increased investment from the B.C. government, and more funding available through the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation, all of which have enabled growth of community-based language projects across the province.

According to the latest Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages (an initiative funded by the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation), First Nations communities have done tremendous work to revitalize their languages. There’s steadily growing interest in Indigenous language revitalization. Since 2018, there have been more language learning opportunities than ever and an over 20% increase in First Nations language learning, especially among young people. Most encouraging is there are more kids learning their First Nations languages at home as their mother tongue.

The Decade provides an opportunity to uphold and honour the Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and youth who are diligently and creatively working to document, protect, practice, and pass on our languages, the original languages of this land.

We lift up Indigenous language leaders, learners, and teachers

An increasing number of people, especially young people who are learning and speaking their languages.

Aiyana Twigg is learning Ktuxana with her mentor Mary Mahseelah in the Mentor-Apprentice Program

How the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation is Engaged in the Decade

The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation is actively engaged in the Decade of Indigenous Languages as part of our commitment to support the vitality of Indigenous languages, arts, and cultural heritage in B.C. Our vision is for Indigenous languages, arts, and cultural heritage to be strong, supported, and passed on from generation to generation. 

We work closely with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council to provide grant funding for programs, training, and tools to elevate the efforts Indigenous people [AR2] and communities are leading to safeguard their languages, restore, and revitalize their cultural systems, and rebuild fluency.

We actively raise awareness of the importance of Indigenous language revitalization and lift up Indigenous language learners, experts, and Knowledge Keepers through thought leadership, advocacy, and storytelling.

Our board chair, Dr. Lorna Wánosts’a7 Williams, is very involved in action planning and advancing goals for the Decade as an Observer on UNESCO’s Global Task Force and as a member of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Working Group. She’s attended and spoken at numerous events, advises on planning for the outcomes of the Decade, and continues to share her deep knowledge and experience in language revitalization to drive progress during this important time.  

We raise our hands to Indigenous language Leaders, Learners, and Teachers

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Why we are welcoming the Decade of Indigenous Languages (and you should too!)

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