​"ABORIGINAL LANGUAGES IN CANADA:  Generational and Community Perspectives on Language Maintenance, Loss and Revitalization" 

​by:  Mary Jane Norris


UNESCO's "Atlas of World's Languages in Danger" suggest 90 Native languages in Canada are endangered AND that 3 languages officially became extinct in 2010.

These extinct and endangered languages reflect a diversity of distinctive histories, cultures, identity linked to family, community, the land and tradition.

Language and Cultural Revitalization

  • addressing continuing legacy of colonization and the challenges for mainstream society can impose on Aboriginal individuals, families/communities on the survival of language and culture and be complex and overwhelming.
  • Aboriginal languages are indigenous to this land and cannot be dependent on bringing in speakers from other areas.  

Language is not just about speaking.

  • Language represents a way of thinking and perceiving the world that is interwoven with the knowledge, culture and identity of a people
  • language is a critical component in maintaining and transmitting cultural integrity and identiity from generation to generation and reflects a unique world view specific to the culture in which it is linked..

Losing a language is to loose a world.

  • loss of language is to loose the embodied wealth of those who use the language.
  • it may not lead to cultural loss, but it makes it difficult to pass on the transmission of culture. 

Canada's formal educational system based on western ideas/concepts of "individualism" and "career advancement".

  • Government sponsored schools - as policy- was about breaking the links to collectivism (tribal identity, etc), the bonds between the kids, their family, community and traditin (i.e. punished for speaking our languages).
  • this consequently makes the residential experience weakened the process of expressionand transmission of indigenous identity, culture and tgraditional knoweldge acrosss the generation.

How to study the loss/endangerment of the language:

  • It is a global phenomenom
  • One cannot over-simplify by saying the big, ex-colonial languages are killers of the smaller languages
  • There is always an interplay of forces (history, society, economic, geographic and demographics - all of which effect language loss or retention.
  • Aboriginal languages are also subject o aboriginal processes that are effecting the chances of loss or retention.
  • Dominant languages - mainstream languages coupled with globalization, urbanization and their pervasive and and unrelenting influence in everyday life affects chances of language survival.

The recommendation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) said that the aboriginal mother tongue should be most spoken in the home.

  • dynamics happen and effect language use
  • life cycle transitions from youth to adulthood
  • residence (on or off reserve) migration between the two homes.
  • family formation, and linguistic out marriages
  • ​entry into the labour force, etc.

Mi'qmaz Online





​Where the Rivers Meet (WTRM) Website

Resources on the Algonquins

First Peoples of Canada

Kitigan-zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Center

Samuel Tremblay, better known by his stage name Samian (born 11 July 1983 in Pikogan, Quebec),is a Canadian rapper who performs in both French and Algonquin.]

A member of the Abitibiwinni First Nation, Samian was born in Amos and grew up in the community of Pikogan in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and in several other cities in the province of Quebec. His father is Québécois and his mother is Algonquin


"ABORIGINAL LANGUAGES IN CANADA:  Generational and Community Perspectives on Language Maintenance, Loss and Revitalization" 

​by:  Mary Jane Norris


We will be looking at what cultural anthropology has been able to say about identity and language through a focus on the  Eastern Woodland Cultural area.  ​


Aboriginal languages are in danger.

  • this danger differs widely in the levels and vitality or endangerment of our languages (depends on the area and other factors)

Causes of endangerment is a complex study.

  • historical processes associatied with colonization in general
  • legacy of Canada's Residential School system
  • urbanization, globalization
  • changing demographics, socio-economic, geographic, culture and residential characteristics in the aboriginal community over the last 50 years.

    Mary Jane Norris argues:

    • generational and community perspectives are useful in studying the loss and revitalization of Aboriginal languages
    • especially when the perspectives engage a peoples' history, the relationship between identity and culture and the health and well-being of their families and communities.