In Canada, for hundreds of years, a deliberate cultural genocide was waged against Indigenous peoples with an aim to erase our languages, arts and cultural heritage and remove us from our lands.
Colonial systems have separated Indigenous children from their families through residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and the current-day foster care system. Indigenous people have also been separated from their lands and economies through the reserve system, failed treaty promises, colonial thefts of land and artifacts, and exclusionary laws.
Continuity of Indigenous languages, arts and cultures was impacted.
An intentional consequence of the forced relocation and attempted assimilation of Indigenous peoples is the severing of intergenerational transmission of culture. Intergenerational transmission ensures the continuity of Indigenous languages, arts and cultures. While our communities are hard-working and always doing what we can to ensure cultural continuity, many Indigenous communities in B.C. have only a handful of people who speak their language, and a few Knowledge Keepers who carry other cultural and artistic practices forward. As of 2018, approximately 3% of First Nations people were fluent speakers of their Indigenous language, and 10.2% were learners of their language. The number of learners is always growing, as is the demand for high-quality language learning opportunities. There is an urgent need to address the impacts of colonization and support the people who are doing this important cultural work.
There is an incredible amount of linguistic and cultural diversity in B.C.
Linguistic and cultural diversity have been negatively impacted by colonization. B.C. has an incredible level of linguistic and cultural diversity, with 204 Indigenous communities, 34 Indigenous languages and over 90 language dialects – all of which have been negatively impacted by colonization. The costs to support language vitality in so many communities, many of which have few remaining speakers, are significant. But the programs we fund have created real progress and give us hope for the future. Because we believe that all of our languages and cultures are invaluable, we continue to advocate for the funding needed to support each one of these precious and irreplaceable languages as well as arts and cultural heritage practices.