Initiatives in Canada
Programs and initiatives across Canada devoted to promoting language use
Ancestral languages are each unique in the messages they convey and the ideas they share with their speakers, and are thus of an intangible importance.
Below, you will find links and information pertaining to various initiatives across Canada devoted to promoting, empowering, providing education in, and strengthening indigenous languages. As national borders exist independently of ethnic or linguistic boundaries, we also include initiatives for language communities that extend beyond Canada’s borders. Though we acknowledge that European names have been imposed on Indigenous languages (often with little to no respect to the languages' cultures or histories), European names will be used in this database in order for languages to be recognizable to all, and to ensure that one community's name for a particular language isn't used over another.
Click on a language or organization to find more information, and relevant links to the initiatives.In addition, you can view a list of organizations or initiatives responsible for multiple languages here.
If you are involved in a similar initiative and want to share your information with us, or would just like to comment on what you see, we would love to hear from you! You can contact us here.
Aboriginal Languages Initiative
Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board
Aboriginal Mapping Network
Algonquian Linguistic Atlas
Council of Yukon First Nations
Endangered Languages Project
First Peoples' Cultural Council (FPCC)
Inuktitut (Arctic Bay Placename Atlas)
Inuktitut (Nunaliit Placename Atlas)
Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre
UNESCO Atlas of Languages in Danger
Abenaki - Online Education and Resources
A comprehensive online database of language resources, including online lessons, speaker recordings, dictionaries, scholarly articles, and current preservation efforts. Though not a preservation initiative in of itself, the database is an invaluable resource for those attempting to commence or further their education in the Abenaki Language.
Abenaki (Western) - Immersion Programs, Dictionary, and Online Resources
This program, includes immersion-based language classes that are offered in the form of various language events in a given year. Though events are typically based in sites across New England, a large Abenaki presence from Canada is reported. Past events have included language immersion camps for children, cultural exhanges, storytelling events, and community outings.
A comprehensive online education platform has also been developed by native speakers of Abenaki. Features of this website include an online dictionary, a radio show, online lessons, and sources for learning more about the language.
Algonquin - Omàmiwininì Pimàdjwowin
[From the site] Omàmiwininì Pimàdjwowin is a not-for-profit organization established by Council of the Algonquin of Pikwakanagan to meet the cultural needs of the community. It operates as The Algonquin Way Cultural Centre and its mission is to revitalize, reintegrate, enhance and protect the cultural traditions, customs, practices, heritage, language and arts of the Algonquin Nation. Our primary focus and objective is the revival of the Algonquin language. During the winter months, we offer language classes to community members of Pikwàkanagàn, and to anyone willing to learn.
A variety of programs have been created for this purpose, such as:
- The Mindiwin Manido daycare centre
- Language and immersion services at the local elementary school
- Lessons for community members
- Online resources
Blackfoot - The Blackfeet Community College
Based just south of the Canadian-American border, the Blackfeet Community College caters to the linguistic, cultural, community, and qualifications training needs of Blackfoot communities. Seen as a great achievement in Blackfoot language education and revitalization, the College (among other things) offers linguistic training in the Blackfoot (Siksika) language. Click here for more information on the College's language programs.
Language education at the primary and secondary levels are also offered by the following programs:
- The Piegan Institute (grades K - 8)
Chilcotin - Tsilhqot'in National Government
[From the Website] The main focus of the language department at the Tsilhqot'in National Government is to revitalize and preserve the Tsilhqot'in Language. Language Research projects have been conducted in partnership with UVIC for a Community based research project on oral histories and indigenous legal traditions on justice and reconciliation in August 2012 and currently, TNG is working with SFU on a seven year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded language research project. The main purpose of this research is to revitalize the Tsilhqot'in language. Activities within this project include:
- Documentation of Tsilhqot'in
- Assessing the function of Tsilhqot'in and challenges of Tsilhqot'in learners
- Developing digital media for learners of Tsilhqot'in
- Develop[ing] and implement[ing] digital storage and retrieval systems
The Government also has a Language Committee responsible for organizing language education-related projects within the Nation, and a Language Teachers Certification program.
Dene - The Dene Retention Committee
The Dene Retention Committee is an organization devoted to promoting the preservation and rejuvenation of the Dene language, culture and history, on both community and governmental levels. The organization aims to develop within the Dene communities and within the general public awareness of the importance of the Dene language, culture and history. Furthermore, aims include encouraging various levels of government to adopt policies that will insure and enhance the development of the Dene language, culture and history. More information on aims and goals can be found on their web page.
Furthermore, specific Reserve Initiatives can be found here.
Gwich'in - the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute
The Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI) holds annual language immersion camps in order to teach young students both the Gwich'in language, and traditional skills, such as hunting, medicines, and survival. As the immersion camps are held far away from urban centres and led by first-language speakers of Gwich'in, students are immersed in their traditional homelands and have very few opportunities to speak English.
The GSCI also conducts research devoted to re-establishing placenames, recording speakers, and developing and publishing materials in the Gwich'in language. The GSCI is also in the process of developing a K-12 second language curriculum in partnership with the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre and the Beaufort-Delta Education Council.
Haida - the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (S.H.I.P.)
S.H.I.P. attempts to preserve and revitalize Skidegate Haida Language, and have it once again become the language spoken in households so that future generations of Haida people will speak the Skidegate Haida Language and pass it on to their children.
This is being done by recording the Skidegate Haida Language, and over 100 instructional CD-ROMs have been created. Within the S.H.I.P. Program there are 10 very committed and dedicated Elders — the average age is 80 years old — who are fluent speakers of the Skidegate Haida Language. The Elders attend S.H.I.P. five days a week, ten months of the year. They represent approximately half of today’s fluent Skidegate Haida speakers.
Halkomelem - Aboriginal Head-Start Program for Preschoolers
The program provides caring, creative and holistic services in which Aboriginal families with children aged between 0 and 6 years may attend. Features of the program include cultural activities, immersion in the Halkomelem language, circle time and story-telling, etc.
Halkomelem - the Stó:lō Shxweli Halq'eméylem Language Program
Stó:lō Shxweli holds many classes in the Halq'eméylem Language. The courses required will provide First Nations language and culture teachers with detailed education in:
- First Nations or Aboriginal Languages spoken in BC
- First Nations Studies or culture
- The BC College of Teachers’ academic prerequisites
- Professional development
The program also encourages the preservation and maintenance of a First Nation language and culture. The Education Division of the Community Economic Development Department of Stó:lō Nation administers the Stó:lō Shxweli Halq’eméylem Language program.
Hän - Nenä tthë Trinke-in
An Aboriginal Head-Start Program used to encourage and promote the cultural and linguistic education in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (Hän) at Dawson City, Yukon. In this program, language and culture are taught to students through the use of games and interactive activities. Outdoor and ceremonial activities are also part of the curriculum.
[From the Website] Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in representatives are [also] in the [Robert Service] school at all Grade levels sharing First Nations messages in all subject areas.
Michif - The Michif Language Project
[From the Website] An educational concept which began in the fall of 2012 has now turned into reality and with its launch an imaginative learning tool for young Michif learners. The Michif Language Learning Project began with the concept that the younger you are the easier it is to learn language. Repetition is required and access to Michif speakers can be problematic in many communities. It was this lack of early learning resource that prompted Marilyn Bean and Jan Ovans of the Cowichan Valley Métis Association, to apply for a Canadian Heritage grant, to develop an early childhood Michif immersion project.
Resources are offered online in a variety of media including videos, interactive games, speaker recordings, and DVDs available to order through BC Métis Associations.
Mi’kmaq - Eskasoni Mi’kmaw Nation Immersion School
Opened in September 2015, the Eskasoni Mi’kmaw Nation Immersion School is the first of its kind, providing the Mi'kmaq language in school announcements, on the playground, in the hallways and is encouraged by all teachers in student communication with each other and staff.
Mohawk - Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Community
Kanatsiohareke is a Mohawk community just south of the border in New York with strong initiatives devoted to an education of traditional practices, crafts, culture, and language immersion. Offering a writing retreat, workshops in ceremonial language use, and a language camp, language instruction can be provided through a variety of means.
Mohawk - Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahní:rats Adult Immersion Program
This program based in The Mohawk Territory of Kahnawà:ke, south of Montreal, offers community members an opportunity to reconnect to their language and culture. The adult immersion program has proven to be a pivotal endeavor in language revitalization. A 2 year full-time intensive program consists of a project based curriculum enhanced with hands-on Onkwehonwehnéha experiences, grammar lessons and daily activities geared towards fostering the advancement of spoken language proficiency.
Mohawk - Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa
[From the Website] Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa (Our Language Society) is a community-based organization that teaches Kanyen’keha (the “Mohawk” language) to adults on the Six Nations Grand River Territory near Brantford, Ontario.
The organization teaches a full-time program that takes place over two school years. Students attend from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday from September through May for approximately 1,000 classroom hours per year. Services offered include:
- An online course for beginners
Mohawk - The Mohawk Language Custodian Association
[From the website] The purpose of [The Mohawk Language Custodian Association] is to provide on-line virtual instruction for Kanien’kéha courses, allowing for greater access in learning the Mohawk language. Members of the community of Kanehsatà:ke [close to Montreal] will have easier access to learning the Kanien’keha language on a daily basis. The lessons will promote, preserve and revitalize Kanien’kéha within the community of Kanehsatà:ke whose dialect is the oldest spoken of the Mohawk communities.
Technology will be used as a tool of instruction to strengthen and revive the daily use of Kanien’kéha thus providing easier access to learning the language.
[From the author] The website features 33 comprehensive vocabulary lessons and 50 lessons related to dialongue and improving conversational skills.
Mohawk - Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna
This program provides Mohawk language and culture programming at the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. They run several programs, including Totáhne (At Grandma's House) for preschool children, Kawenna'ón:we Primary Immersion (K-4) and Shatiwennakará:tats, a year long program for Adults.
A fantastic documentary concerning revitalization effors in Tyendinaga has recently been released, by the name of Raising The Words. For more information, you can visit the official documentary site here.
Nsyilxcn (Okanagan) - The Syilx Language House
[From the website] The Syilx Language House Association is a non-profit society formed with the express purpose of creating and supporting new Nsyilxcn (Okanagan) speakers in Syilx communities.
[The Syilx Language House Association] promotes the use, preservation, and revitalization of Nsyilxcn by actively running immersion classes, training teachers, recording Elders, publishing language materials, supporting an active family of learners and speakers, and raising the profile of Nsyilxcn in community. Currently, the program has 13 beginners, five co-teachers (also students), and four Elders from across the Syilx territory, which includes Penticton, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Westbank, Vernon, and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
Ojibwe - The Ojibwe Conversational Archives project
The Ojibwe Conversational Archives project was created by transcribing more than 20 hours of conversation between first-language speakers. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the project combines the skills of native speakers with video technology to help others, young and old, learn the language in the most natural way. This is done by videotaping short movies of everyday situations, from going to a rummage sale to planting a garden to helping out a sick relative.
Squamish - Kwi Awt Stelmexw
Kwi Awt Stelmexw is an organization devoted to restoring the Squamish language, history, art and culture, through educational programs and initiatives. Current programs or those to be implemented soon include:
- Adult Language Immersion Program
- 25 Year Language Action Plan
- Development of a Coast Salish Cultural Centre
- Digital Pace Name Mapping Projects
Initiatives in progress also include Public Awareness and Education campaigns, and Language Resource and Curriculum Development.
Squamish - The Skwomesh Language Academy
The Skwomesh Language Academy is a multi-faceted approach to revitalizing the Squamish language (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh snichim) through the means of online lessons, Squamish-language materials (such as t-shirts), and classroom-based instruction. A practical immersion-based program called Language House teaches practical and every-day language skills to students who live together in a designated house and converse in the Squamish language. Upon being granted sufficient funding, the Academy aims to create adult immersion programs. Audio and video files in the Squamish language are available on the Academy's website.
Tahltan - the Tahltan Central Government
Tahltan is a critically endangered language. Currently, Tahltan Nation is creating a Tahltan Language and Culture government effort that will provide governance and guidance in regards to the revitalization of [their] language. Language documentation and course planning is under way as the number of speakers decline. In the future, the Tahltan Nation hopes to:
- Create early childhood programs involving kids and parents
- Create language classes from kindergarten to grade 12
- Create immersion programs for people of all ages
- Create adult learning and culture camps
Currently, Tahltan Language Revitalization Coordinators and Research Assistants are using various media such as iPods to record speaker data and create digital learning interfaces. Online lessons can be found here.
Tsuut'ina - Tsúùt’ìnà Gunaha Project
[From the Website] The Tsúùt’ìnà Gunaha ('Tsúùt’ìnà Language') Project is a joint initiative between the Tsuu T'ina Nation outside of Calgary, Alberta, and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Alberta. It targets Tsúùt’ìnà (an Athapaskan language formerly known as Sarcee or Sarsi), first made famous in the linguistics literature by Edward Sapir, who conducted fieldwork on the language in the 1920s.
Wendat - The Yawenda Project
The Yawenda Project is a federally funded, million-dollar initiative attempting to revive the use of the Huron-Wendat language on the Wendake reserve, north of Quebec City. Launched in August 2007, the five-year project provided weekly language courses to studends, and also provided for teacher training and the creation of instruction materials to help teach Huron-Wendat to preschoolers and elementary school students.
Organizations and initiatives with multiple languages
Aboriginal Languages Initiative - Aboriginal Peoples’ Program
The Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) is a federal program funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Program objectives are to support projects that maintain, revitalize and promote provincial First Nations/Aboriginal Languages.
The ALI aims to improve:
- access to activities supporting preservation and revitalization of Aboriginal languages and cultures
- assistance to Aboriginal communities in their efforts to enhance languages and cultures
- the preservation and enhancement of Aboriginal languages and cultures as living cultures
The Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board - Government of the North West Territories
[From the Website] In 2004, the Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board, along with the Official Languages Board, was established under the authority of the Official Languages Act. The Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board includes a representative for each of the nine official NWT Aboriginal languages and advises the Minister on matters related to programs and initiatives that promote, enhance, maintain and revitalize Aboriginal languages.
All members of the Board are appointed for a two-year term pursuant to the provisions of the Official Languages Act and relevant regulations.
The Official Languages Division of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment provides administrative support to the Board primarily in preparation of correspondence, meeting arrangements, preparation of minutes and travel arrangements.
Council of Yukon First Nations - Self-Government Secretariat
The Self-Government Secretariat is an organization devoted to assisting Yukon First Nations with tasks, projects, and initiatives relating to promoting self-government. Among other initiatives, there is a strong focus on creating education and immersion-based programs for a variety of First-Nations languages including Gwich'in, Han, Kaska, Northern and Southern Tutchone, Tagish, Tlingit, and Upper Tanana. Current initiatives and future projects implemented by the organization include:
- Immersion Camps
- Language Promotion
- Master-Apprentice Pilot Projects
- Language Nest Pilot Projects
The organization also works to obtain statistics about First-Nations communities in the Yukon to improve institutions such as First-Nations healthcare, justice, and education.
The First Peoples' Cultural Council - Aboriginal Languages in British Columbia
The First Peoples' Cultural Council is a First Nations-run Crown Corporation with a mandate to support the revitalization of Aboriginal language, arts and culture in British Columbia. [They] provide funding, training and capacity building, and advocacy for language immersion, collaboration, planning, language and culture, and archiving programs, and distribute provincial and federal funding, and administer immersion-focused programs. Funding can be offered for the following:
- Mentor-Apprentice Programs
- Language and Culture camps
- Language Nests
- Language Revitalization Planning
The Council website also offers links to other relevant organizations with similar goals, and language resources to learners and educators.
FirstVoices - Online Learning and Archiving
[From the First Peoples' Cultural Council] FirstVoices is [an] internationally recognized online Indigenous language archiving and teaching resource that allows indigenous communities to document their language for future generations. FirstVoices provides state-of-the-art technologies, training and technical support to community language champions. Teams of fluent Elders and technically savvy youth upload dictionaries, alphabets, songs, stories, words and phrases as well as audio and video to their community archives.
Current FirstVoices projects include:
- Language Tutor: Interactive Web-based vocabulary and conversation building exercises.
- Language Lab: Stand-alone Internet-free iPad-based means to using the Language Tutor.
- DictionaryApps: Interactive dictionaries with text, audio, image, and visual content.
- Chat: A texting app for Facebook Chat and Google Talk, available at the Apple App Store.
Services are available to both adults and kids, and can be used with or without access to the Internet.
Interior Salishan - Salish School of Spokane (SSOS)
[From the Website] The Salish School of Spokane (SSOS) is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is "to create a vibrant community of fluent speakers of Interior Salish languages by providing Salish language instruction to children and by empowering parents and families to speak Salish in their daily lives."
Based in Spokane, Washington, the school assists in protecting languages that are spoken on both sides of the Canada - U.S. border. Curriculae are offered in the following Southern (Interior) Salishan languages:
- N̓xaʔm̓xčín (Wenatchee-Columbian Salish)
- Spokane Salish
- Coeur d'Alene
Furthermore, programs are offered in the following areas:
- Language Immersion
- Community Language Programs
- Native Youth Mentor Programs
- Curriculum Development
More information can be found by following the link below, or accessing the older website here.
Malecite-Passamaquoddy (Multiple Communities) - Language Keepers
[From the Website] Language Keepers addresses a central dilemma in endangered language work: the decline and loss of public group discourse. When a language is no longer spoken in groups outside the family or in public, it cannot be effectively passed on or documented.
The loss of public speaking is a serious symptom of language endangerment.
Language Keepers is an innovative approach combining descriptive linguistics, documentary video, and community outreach to revive speaker groups to use heritage language in traditional and contemporary activities while recording it for language learning, dictionary development, research, cultural transmission, and revival.
Language Keepers is a project of the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities Documenting Endangered Languages Program. The documentation has taken place at the Passamaquoddy communities of Pleasant Point and Indian Township (Maine), and Tobique First Nation Reserve (New Brunswick, Canada).
The Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre
[Taken from the website] The Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre is the first First Nations controlled educational institution serving at the provincial level. The Centre strives to maintain the cultural identity of First Nations cultures who inhabit what is now known as Saskatchewan: Plains Cree, Swampy Cree, Woodlands Cree, Dene, Nahkawe (Saulteaux), Dakota, Nakota and Lakota.
Language-related gols of the Centre include:
- To assist in developing traditional and contemporary cultural skills of First Nations people.
- To provide a First Nations resource base for bands and school systems to draw upon.
- To advocate the preservation of First Nations languages, cultures, traditional arts and history.
- To conduct and facilitate research on First Nations heritage and culture.
The Algonquian Linguistic Atlas
[From the website] This project aims co-create an on-line, multimedia linguistic atlas of Algonquian languages. The creation of this atlas offers many training opportunities for sound editing and linguistic description training to aboriginal students.
In addition, the atlas aims to create contacts between curriculum developers, language specialists and lexicographers of Algonquian languages, with a focus on on-line language resources and dictionaries. The atlas investigates user-friendly and culturally appropriate computing interfaces and database structures.
This project is a fertile ground for knowledge transfer and mutual inspiration, with all parties working in a collaborative spirit. Ultimately, the atlas' goal is to make sure that the beautiful Algonquian languages and the cultures they embody will be heard and spoken by many more generations to come.
The Aboriginal Mapping Network - The Living Atlas
[From the Website] The Aboriginal Mapping Network (AMN) was established in 1998 as a joint initiative of the Gitxsan and Ahousaht First Nations and Ecotrust Canada. Over the years the network has grown from its humble beginnings as a knowledge sharing forum for local First Nations technicians, leaders and decision makers to become a valuable strategic resource for practitioners of traditional knowledge mapping around the world. The AMN now has a mandate to support aboriginal and indigenous peoples facing similar issues, such as land claims, treaty negotiations and resource development, with common tools, such as traditional use studies, GIS mapping and other information systems.
Though not directly related to language, the Living Atlas focuses on the territories belonging to different First Nations groups, and represent an indispensable mapping framework. Current maps with links are listed below:
- Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, BC
- Okanagan Nation Alliance, BC
- Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, BC
- Dzawada'enuxw First Nation, BC
The Endangered Languages Project
[From the website] The Endangered Languages Project puts technology at the service of the organizations and individuals working to confront the language endangerment by documenting, preserving and teaching them. Through this website, users can not only access the most up to date and comprehensive information on endangered languages as well as samples being provided by partners, but also play an active role in putting their languages online by submitting information or samples in the form of text, audio or video files. In addition, users will be able to share best practices and case studies through a knowledge sharing section and through joining relevant Google Groups.
Aside from the Atlas, the project has many other online features, including:
- Current language and linguistic research
- Language Advocacy and Awareness
Innu - Pepamuteiati Nitassinat Placename Atlas
This program is devoted to indicating and highlighting traditional Innu placenames in Québec and Labrador. Geographic locations are available, as well as multimedia recordings of place names, IPA pronunciation guides, etymologies, photographs, and short histories of events surrounding the area.
Along with the atlas, there is also a section devoted to speaker recordings containing stories told by Elders.
Inuktitut - the Arctic Bay Atlas
[From the website] The Cybercartographic Atlas of Arctic Bay is an online, community-based atlas project to engage youth and Elders of Arctic Bay, Nunavut in researching, documenting, and representing their multi-faceted spatial knowledge. It involves a partnership between Nunavut Youth Consulting, the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) at Carleton University, and Nunavut Arctic College.
The Atlas includes an interactive spoken map of Inuktitut place names in the Arctic Bay Region. These place names are spoken by local Inuktitut speakers. The Atlas also includes an interactive map of the 2008 Nunavut Quest, an annual inter-community dog sled that begins in Igloolik and ends in Arctic Bay
Inuktitut - Nunaliit
[From the website] The Nunaliit Atlas Framework aims to make it easy to tell stories and highlight relationships between many different forms of information from a variety of sources, using maps as a central way to connect and interact with the data.
The Nunaliit Atlas Framework was born out of a multi-disciplinary research project led by Dr. Fraser Taylor, a Distinguished Research Professor in the department of Geography and Environmental Studies and director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Research and development of Nunaliit is carried out and supported by a diverse team of individuals and organizations. [The organization is] available to assist with projects.
Nunaliit has been designed to make it relatively simple to create interactive mapping web sites based on your data and multimedia, and to permit web users to contribute additions and changes where permitted. By default, it uses a very flexible document oriented database to store any text-based attributes or data objects.
UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
An online adaptation of the print edition. Though this atlas, which currently includes over 2 400 different languages is not restricted to languages within Canadian borders, it does currently include 87 Canadian indigenous languages that are at risk. Each geographic marker in the online map contains information regarding number of speakers, status of vitality, relevant history, known locations, and whether or not revitalization attempts have been made. Lists of sources are also provided.
Importantly, the atlas is also open to those who wish to add entries to the existing database, making this a system subject to constant growth and expansion.
The Yinka Déné Language Institute
The Yinka Déné Language Institute is an organization devoted to the preservation and promotion of the Yinka Dene language and culture. The Insitute has in the past has conducted a number of research projects, held a training programme for language teachers, and has publicized a number of works mostly for children. The Institute also maintains an extensive database of audio recordings, video tapes, and photographs. Some activities of the Institute include:
- Encouraging the use of [Yinka Dene] languages
- Language documentation and publication of materials
- Training researchers, instructors, and language specialists
- Developing Curriculae and creating teaching materials
- Preserving and archiving linguistic, cultural, and historical material
A bilingual Placename Atlas is also available on their website.