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University of Calgary offers class on Stoney Nakoda language

By Saima Asad, January 13 2016 —

Instead of looking internationally, University of Calgary students now have the option to learn a language much closer to Alberta’s history and culture.

The U of C’s School of Linguistics, Languages, Literatures and Cultures is offering a course this semester on the Stoney Nakoda language, spoken in regions of southern Alberta. This is the first time that the course — Indigenous Languages 205 — will focus on Stoney Nakoda.

Stoney Nakoda is one of over 60 indigenous languages spoken in Canada, according to a 2011 census. Originally a purely oral language, Stoney Nakoda is considered “critically endangered” by the official Rocky Mountain Nakoda website.

The course is taught by co-instructors Trenton Fox and Warren Harbeck, who are both fluent in the language. Fox has a background in Native Studies and is fluent in the contemporary version of Stoney Nakoda, though he can also converse with individuals who practice older variations.

While previous offerings of INDL 205 focused on the Blackfoot language, the co-instructors felt it was prudent to shift the language focus this year.

“This year, Dr. Harbeck and I wanted to focus on the Stoney Nakoda language,” Fox said. “The Stoney Nakoda language is spoken by people in the community of Morley, Alberta.”

Harbeck is also very familiar with the language and the Stoney Nakoda community, according to Fox.

“We know him as ‘yethkno’, meaning he is Stoney,” Fox said.

Stoney Nakoda is spoken by the Indigenous Îyârhe Nakoda population. The community is part of the Sioux Nation. Îyârhe Nakoda translates to “mountain people” in English, according to the Rocky Mountain Nakoda site. Fox and Harbeck will teach students basic words and basic conversational skills in Stoney Nakoda, in addition to some of the history of the language and region.

“Students at the U of C, I think, should have some knowledge of the First Nations that surround the city of Calgary, as well as learning some basic language skills,” Fox said.

Second-year linguistics and psychology student Karanveer Bhatt is enrolled in INDL 205. He hopes the course will allow him to explore the culture and learn more about the indigenous communities surrounding Calgary.

“I have an interest in Calgary, and so I have an interest in everything that has to do with the surrounding of the city and the city itself,” Bhatt said. “Stoney Nakoda does have a lot of historical connection to the city and the province of Alberta. I personally feel connected to this and I really want to know more about it.”

INDL 205 is offered on Wednesday nights from 6:00 p.m.– 8:45 p.m. The course is still open and has no prerequisites.

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