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STATEMENTS BY ABORIGINAL LANGUAGE ACTIVISTS

My Dene Language - A Lost Heritage?
I stole something very important from my son – his Chipewyan language. I didn't intentionally do this to deprive him. I could come up with all kinds of excuses of why I didn't teach him to speak Chipewyan, but after all is said and done the fact remains that by not teaching him, I deprived him of the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons and history from his grandparents.

Sure they could talk to him about simple everyday things in their limited English, but they could not share with him the stories of his ancestors and the life they lived because he wouldn't understand it. He is missing out on learning more about himself and his people because he cannot effectively communicate with the source of this information.

I can tell him the stories in English but sometimes the richness of the history is best related in the language. Telling him about "Dene Medicine" is not the same as telling him about Dene word text graphic – one explains a practice, the other defines a people's way of life. I've taken this concept away from my son by not teaching him his language.

I wish that someone had told me when my son was born to make sure I taught him his language. By not doing so, I have taken away an important part of his culture. It makes me very sad when I think about what I didn't do.

As parents, we should make every effort to teach our children their language.

Seyati story Dene text graphic

Sabet Biscaye
Executive Director, Native Communications Society of the NWT
Member, Ministers Forum on Education
Previous Assistant Deputy Minister, Official Languages, Department of the Executive


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