What do you do when a traditional First Nations language is dying? For the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, one of the answers is not traditional in the least - play Nintendo.
Thanks to a 2012-13 language and culture grant of $25,000 from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), the society worked with video-game designer Thornton Media Inc. to develop language learning games for Nintendo DSi. The fun and interactive video games help teach children Secwepemctsín, the traditional language of the Secwepemc First Nations people.
Elders and other fluent Secwepemctsín speakers recorded audio for games, quizzes and songs in their western/northern and eastern dialects. The games are now being used in Secwepemc child-care centres to help revive the language among the younger generation.
A variety of other methods of teaching traditional language to young children are also underway, including having elders speak to children's groups, story time with children's books written in a traditional language, and singing songs in a traditional language.
Prior to European contact, approximately 20,000 people spoke Secwepemctsín. According to recent surveys, only about 150 fluent speakers remain, and most of them are over 65. The majority of Secwepemctsín learners are under the age of 19.
The funding is from MCFD's Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Reinvestment Program, which provides $5 million each year towards early childhood programs for First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Métis children, from birth to six years old. Many projects include working with elders to incorporate cultural and language learning into early childhood education.
Projects are guided by the First Nations and Urban Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Steering Committee, which determines yearly funding priorities based on input from Aboriginal communities. Since the program began in 2010, MCFD has provided $16 million in funding for more than 1,000 community projects and programs across B.C.
In addition, the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation provides more than $1 million annually to the First Peoples' Cultural Council (FPCC). Since 1990, the FPCC has distributed over $20 million to Aboriginal communities for language, arts and culture projects, including providing nearly $150,000 to Secwepemctsín language programs in 2012-13.
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development -
"The government of B.C. is pleased to continue to support Aboriginal groups and their efforts to incorporate traditional language and culture into early childhood education programs. From listening to elders speak, to reading books in traditional languages, to playing a video game - there are many creative opportunities for children to learn."
Terry Lake, Minister of Environment, MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson -
"Our community is pleased to see innovative learning tools incorporated in Aboriginal child-care centres, along with more traditional routes of learning. A hands-on tool such as a video game will help get children engaged. This will benefit the Secwepemc First Nations community, helping to revive their traditional language."
George Kaliszewski, executive director, Secwepemc Cultural Education Society -
"Families, elders and early childhood educators are very happy with the results of incorporating this new learning tool. Secwepemc children are enthusiastically learning their traditional language, through interactive play. The Secwepemc Cultural Education Society values this partnership with the Ministry of Children and Family Development."
- The B.C. government invests more than $1 billion annually on a range of early-childhood development services and supports.
- Early-childhood development programs help families, service providers and communities give B.C.'s children their strongest possible start.
- The Secwepemc project is one of 187 projects funded by the reinvestment program provincewide in 2012-13:
- 93 program enhancement projects.
- 94 language and culture projects.
To find out more about MCFD Aboriginal early-childhood development programs, go to: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/early_childhood/aecd.htm
For information on the First Nations and Urban Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Steering Committee and the reinvestment program, go to: www.fnuaecdsc.ca/
To learn more about the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, go to: www.secwepemc.org/
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Children and Family Development