Five years after Jackson Lafferty made the above comment, elders are involved in different capacities in every school in the territory and Indigenous culture is being integrated into the school environment and the lives of youth.

This is important to revitalizing languages and traditional practices that were stripped away through colonization and cultural genocide.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment’s website states, “The Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada that names nine official Aboriginal languages alongside English and French through its Official Languages Act. The act recognizes that many languages are spoken and used by people of the NWT and is committed to the preservation, development and enhancement of Aboriginal languages.”

With nine official Indigenous languages in the NWT, having elders, language and cultural experiences available in more than 40 schools around the territory in five years is quite the feat.

But, the territory isn’t out of the woods quite yet.

Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations national chief, said recently that the Canadian government needs to act fast to protect endangered Indigenous languages.

“A lot (of languages) are on the verge of extinction, none of them are safe,” said Bellegarde. “Your language is who you are. It’s connected to the land and the water and our ceremonies as well, so it’s very vital to maintain that as an identity as First Nations people.”

A federal Indigenous languages act is in the works – for First Nations, Inuit and Metis – a collaboration between Indigenous organizations and the Department of Canadian Heritage. This is another vital step in reversing the effects of residential school, where children’s languages were stripped from them.

Melanie Joly, minister of Canadian Heritage, said the Liberal government plans to put an Indigenous languages bill before the House of Commons by the fall. It is hoped a resulting new law – which Joly said will “link, directly, Indigenous languages to the protection of Indigenous rights in the constitution” – will be in place before the next federal election in October 2019.

The territorial government published an Indigenous languages action plan to further its goal of expanding services offered in Indigenous languages and to support language education and fluency. The GNWT is also distributing $4.8 million among Indigenous governments so they can develop their own language revitalization plans.

The hard work is just beginning, but these important steps will help guide future generations in recovering from the effects of colonization.

It’s our hope that languages on the verge of extinction are able to recover and thrive once again.

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