North Americans have celebrated National Indigenous Languages Day on Mar. 31 since 1993 to honour the strength and endurance of Indigenous languages and culture. The same goes for 2023.
“While National Aboriginal Languages Day is a single day to honour the legacy we have inherited, there are thousands of Indigenous Language Champions creating and delivering Indigenous languages programs and traditional teachings every day,” said the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) when speaking about Indigenous Languages Day several years ago. “We celebrate the work of our Indigenous Language and Culture Champions to revitalize and seek ways to sustain survival of our languages.
The AFN said it acknowledges the difficult burden Indigenous Language and Culture Champions have carried to reverse more than a century of attempts, primarily through residential schools, to erase Indigenous languages and identity.
“It is a harsh reality that the Crown, Canada and the churches attempted to exterminate Indigenous culture and languages by targeting the most vulnerable members of the Indigenous communities’ population, children,” said Associate Director Learning Services Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Sue Dunlop when referencing last year’s Indigenous Languages Day.
Dunlop said treaties are international, nation-to-nation agreements. If the Crown, Canada and the churches had succeeded, the defining nationhood criteria would have been eradicated. Then, as anticipated, Indigenous people would no longer exist according to Canadian legislation, negating the Crown’s fiduciary responsibilities to fulfill treaty obligations.
“HWDSB will continue to work in friendship and conversation with the Indigenous Cultural Safety Team and the Hamilton-Wentworth Indigenous community to protect the rights of the learners within the HWDSB umbrella, to ensure appropriate resources that are authentic and accurate will be made available as an aspect of cultural safety,” she said. “On this Indigenous Languages Day, we understand that Indigenous language loss, retrieval, protection and revitalization represent a part of our shared history that requires pause. It is imperative that we understand the treaty agreements that have been hidden from us.”