UN wraps up its year of Indigenous Languages during New York ceremony

The United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages came to an official end Tuesday.

Several Indigenous leaders and leaders from Canada were on hand at a ceremony in New York City.

The year long event was all about awareness of Indigenous languages and for those that are disappearing.

Many agree that the work to save languages around the world is far from over.

This year’s goodwill ambassador was an Indigenous actress from Mexico.

Yalitza Aparicio is best known for her Oscar nominated performance as an Indigenous maid in the 2016 film, Roma.

Through a translator, she related the story of how her parents only spoke Spanish at home, thinking they were protecting her.

“No boy or girl should grow up feeling ashamed of their roots,” she said through the translator. “They should know that speaking an Indigenous language is a reason for pride. It reveals a world in all its very rich dimensions.

“I trust that as we defend our linguistic heritage in each community, as a people we’ll get to recognize the beauty behind each mother tongue.”

The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde addressed the UN General Assembly.

He began his remarks in Cree.

Bellegarde said language is a fundamental human right.

“The right to language is part of the very foundation of the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples worldwide,” Bellegarde told the Assembly.

“We all know that colonialism caused profound harm to the cultures and traditions of Indigenous peoples around the world, and that includes actions to destroy our languages.”

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller spoke in Mohawk as he’s done a number of times lately.

In English, Miller spoke about how three quarters of Indigenous languages in Canada are endangered.

Then he brought up Bill C-91, the government’s languages law.

“The government of Canada and Indigenous partners have worked relentlessly together to create the Indigenous languages act,” said Miller.

“I want to acknowledge all the outstanding work of Indigenous partner organizations in the co-development of this legislation.”

Many speakers today called the year a good start.

“Actions which are to be carried out in various countries to rescue languages do not end at the end of the year, rather they should continue for the whole of eternity,” said Aparicio .

“So that no more of our history is lost.”

Before the traditional opening started it was announced there’ll be an International Decade of Indigenous Languages that will begin in 2022.

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