Young Atikamekw share language and culture to build relationships with non-indigenous students

Young people from the Atikamekw Nation took part in a special panel on language at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

The goal was to share what language has done for their culture – and why it’s so important.

First nations in the province of Quebec have different realities than most of their fellow Quebecois.

Even if both cultures have been fighting to preserve their respective languages.

For Claudie Ottawa, who teaches her mother tongue at the Kiuna Institute, the only Indigenous college in Quebec, it was very important to share her knowledge and experience at this panel.

‘’I really wanted us to present the project with Kiuna and for people to see that what we are doing now are the language classes at college level and it is a big step,” she said. “So I think that it may incite other nations to want to integrate their own language classes to the Kiuna Institute. I think this is a big step and we have to share it with everyone.”

Although many Indigenous languages of Canada are struggling, it is safe to say the Atikamekw language is striving in Quebec.

More than 95 per cent of the members of the Atikamekw nations are fluent speakers.

Ottawa says in the [her] community of Manawan, “the Atikamekw language is still being taught in elementary and there are classes in high school. The Youth speak the Atikamekw language a lot and the elders as well.’’

Jemmy Echaquan-Dubé, an Atikamekw youth and a member of the Assembly of First Nations youth council, was in Paris when UNESCO announced 2019 was going to be the year of Indigenous languages.

She says she strongly believes that partnerships with non-Indigenous people can create allies for generations to come.

‘’It is the revitalization of our culture you know, it is for indigenous people, but we have to create bridges. And I think that it’s in that aspect that we can create bridges and become allies and try to go forward together,’’ says Echaquan-Dubé.

Most agree still a lot of work needs to be done for the preserve the indigenous languages for the future generations but many communities are taking action to do so.

These youth of the Atikamekw nation agree that sharing their language and culture with non-indigenous can bring positive relationships forward.

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