From the table, we can see a change in the use of all Aboriginal languages
in the home. In some cases, like Inuktitut, Gwich'in and Cree, that change
When we compare mother tongue and home language use by age in the NWT (see Appendix A) we can see that:
- Where people say their mother tongue is an Aboriginal language, those between the ages of
20 and 60 use it the least in the home. These are the parents and grandparents who are
usually responsible for transmitting the language to the children.
- Even for people over 60 years of age, English is replacing Aboriginal
languages in the home in some language communities. For example, in 1996,
only 26.1% of Gwich'in
mother tongue speakers over 60 years of age said Gwich'in was their home
There are many possible reasons for the decline in the use of NWT Aboriginal
- English is the dominant language in Canada and the North.
- English is the dominant language of schooling and the workplace.
- Residential schooling interrupted the flow of the languages from one generation to another.
- Media, including TV and the Internet, are mainly in English.
- Many Aboriginal people have moved to a larger community, where they are more likely to
hear English than their own Aboriginal language.
- Most fluent speakers of the language are older.
At a meeting of language coordinators in Yellowknife, in February 2002,
in a plea for increased support from the GNWT, the language coordinator from
the Gwich'in language community
claimed that, without serious intervention, the Gwich'in language
would be extinct in five years15. Other Aboriginal people in
the NWT share similar concerns about the loss of their languages.
14 Adapted from Government of the Northwest Territories Dept. of Education,
Culture and Employment, Revitalizing, Enhancing and Promoting Aboriginal
Languages: Strategies for Supporting Aboriginal Languages.
15 Firth, William. In a report to the Government of the Northwest
Territories' Language Coordinators' Meeting. Yellowknife, February 2002.