A new degree is being developed to support the revitalization of First Nations languages in British Columbia.
“Our government is funding the development of a new degree that will help to preserve First Nations languages,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. “Language preservation is crucial to keeping the connection to our First Nations stories.”
The Province is providing $103,300 toward the development of an Indigenous Language Fluency Degree. Efforts to establish the degree arose through community consultations undertaken by the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA). They have partnered with a consortium of post-secondary institutions, including Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a, En’owkin Centre, the University of British Columbia and the University of Northern British Columbia.
“The development of this degree program is one of the early actions resulting from our work to develop a First Nations Social Determinants of Health Strategy with the First Nations Health Council,” said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad.
Building on work initiated by FNESC and IAHLA, the framework for the proposed degree program includes two years of language instruction in communities and the final two years at a public post-secondary institution. Further consultations with B.C. First Nations communities and Aboriginal-controlled institutes are planned early in the year to seek feedback on the proposed degree structure and delivery mechanism.
“Through consultations, we’re creating relationships and curricular structures that build on the strengths and capacities of each of the partners involved, including the communities served,” says Jeannette Armstrong, Canada research chair in Indigenous Philosophy and assistant professor of Indigenous studies at UBC Okanagan. “These partnerships will be integrated into a growing network of expertise and experience which will help expand effective language training capacity and move work forward on an Indigenous Language Fluency Degree.”
Since 2011-12 and 2013-14, the Ministry of Advanced Education has provided $650,000 in targeted funding to the First Nations Education Steering Committee for the First Nations Language Teacher Education Initiative. This provided support for the development and delivery of First Nations language teacher education programs in seven First Nations communities through a number of activities, including delivery of Developmental Standard Term Certificate programs, research and professional development and completion of language certification frameworks and courses. The ministry is also supporting several language programs for teachers through the Aboriginal Community-Based Training Partnerships Program, which is funded by the ministry and through the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund Agreement.
“First Nations languages are the original languages of this province, and are a critical component of our identity as First Nations peoples,” says FNESC President Tyrone McNeil. “The First Nations language fluency degree initiative is an opportunity to directly support First Nations language revitalization and the implementation of the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework. This funding provided by the Ministry of Advanced Education provides crucial support to the collective efforts of our partnership.”
Public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia offer a range of Aboriginal language related courses and programs, including Developmental Standard Term Certificate programs leading to certification of Aboriginal language teachers. Aboriginal-controlled institutes in B.C. have consistently maintained a focus and commitment to providing community-based First Nations language learning programs.
- British Columbia’s 203 First Nations communities have 34 languages, more than any other province in Canada.
- First Peoples’ Cultural Council is a B.C. Crown corporation dedicated to the revitalization of First Nations languages, arts and heritage in B.C.