By Sarah Chung, November 7 2019 —
On Nov. 2, 2019, the University of Calgary School of Languages, Linguistics, Literature and Cultures, alongside local Indigenous groups and other university partners, hosted a celebration of reclaiming Indigenous languages in Alberta.
The event, which took place from 1–5 p.m., began with welcoming remarks and territorial acknowledgment followed by opening prayers. The screening of the 2016 short film Voices on the Rise began at 2:00 p.m. and depicted filmmaker Eli Hirtle exploring the numerous language revitalization efforts made by the local Indigenous groups of Vancouver Island.
The film’s emphasis on the importance of language and culture is shown through Hirtle’s struggle with his own identity as a Cree-Canadian who did not know his heritage for many years, and is carried onto the various revitalization efforts, such as immersion programs, made on Vancouver Island.
According to Hirtle in the film, “doing this work of reconnecting with language is laying the groundwork for people to feel proud and strong again,” which perfectly encapsulates the message of the film.
Following the film was a panel discussion with Hirtle and other contributors and a showcase consisting of several projects made by a variety of institutions, including a language revitalization program with the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education and an exhibit on Indigenous languages by the Canadian Language Museum.
The message of the event was for UCalgary students and other attendees alike to remember the importance of language to a culture, especially for those whose culture has been fundamentally lost throughout their history and Canadian history, as well. Eli Hirtle’s take on Indigenous language revitalization on Vancouver Island alongside his own personal journey is an optimistic take on the future of Indigenous groups in Canada as one that will be united by language and cultural restoration efforts.