July 14th, 2024

Committee preserving Blackfoot language for future generations

By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on June 22, 2022.

Herald photo by Justin Seward Diana Plume and Paula Weaselhead lead the snake dance during the Blackfoot Language Symposium at the Coast Hotel and Conference Centre on Tuesday.

The Aitsi’poyiiksi Committee hosted a Blackfoot Language Symposium Tuesday which returned to Lethbridge for the first time in over two years this week.
The symposium gathered Blackfoot-speaking people from Siksika Nation, the Piikani Nation and Blood Tribe to discuss how to preserve the Blackfoot language.
“There have been some dire predictions by linguists across Canada that by the year 2050 there will be only three Indigenous languages left and still be utilized,” said Arnold Fox, director of Blood Tribe Social Development.
“Which would be the Cree, Ojibwa and Inuit. So according to those predictions, the Blackfoot language will be extinct by the year 2050. We’re working as hard as we can trying to identify methodologies that would assist us in preserving the language for use. Not just archived in a museum somewhere with a bunch of recordings.”
There was a dancing workshop as part of the symposium where each dance had an introduction in each song of a translation identified in Blackfoot, and gives the opportunity for people to practice.
“We’re told that language cannot be preserved, using one avenue we have to bring our life experiences and be able to describe our life experiences using the Blackfoot language,” he said.
The Brain Story was presented Tuesday morning and how that whole concept was being utilized on the Blood Reserve in their education system.
“The Brain Story cautions us to raise children with as little trauma as possible because trauma impacts on the development of the brain physically,” said Fox.
“So what we need to do is minimize those traumas – very difficult when you think that the parents, grandparents may have been impacted by the residential school syndrome. So it just keeps going from one generation to the next. What ultimately we hope to do is to revive the Blackfoot language, have our youth learn it in any way that’s possible.”
Fox said he knows that they’re recovering some ground.
“We know we’re making some advances I believe,” he said.
“One of the words I keep hearing from our elders is we need to raise our kids with Kimmapiipitssin (with kindness), with gentleness,” said Fox.
Fox said he feels good when he comes here and sees it and hears it being utilized, and sees his granddaughter saying the prayer in Blackfoot.
“I don’t think there is one single way of saving the language but we can utilize different means of accomplishing that goal,” said Fox.
Through the previous two days, other workshops included Robert Hall speaking about his experience on learning how to speak Blackfoot, Peter Weasel Moccassin and Paula Smith speaking about Seasons and Indicators, Eldon Weasel Child talking about “A Method of Teaching through Encouragement and Repetition”, storytelling from Wilton Good Striker and Martin Heavy Head, and a history lesson on Moses Lake circa 1950.
Wednesday will be focused on coining new terms/words and Blackfoot humour.

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