First Language Reclamation Summit

Congratulations to Patricia Ningewance Nadeau and her team on their visionary and highly successful First Language Reclamation Summit, hosted at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg the weekend of November 25th. In her words:

This is a meeting for Speakers and Learners of the 7 indigenous languages of Manitoba: Anishinininiimowin (Oji-Cree), Cree, Dene, Dakota, Inuktitut, Michif, and Ojibwe. The purpose is to talk about the emotional and spiritual “block” that we have when trying to pass on our language to the next generation, and when students are learning to speak them.

I was only able to catch the last hour or so of her meeting, but it was a pleasure to see the group approach the end of the whole intense experience with energy and optimism.

In her closing remarks, Pat shared some clear, simple directions for those of us engaged in this work:

  • If the language is yours, Do, don’t ask!
  • Teach all you can, however you can.
  • Immersion in concentrated stretches works.
  • Make it fun: know how to have fun in the language.
  • This is our land, and we own the language as much as the language owns us.

The planning committee included Pat Ningewance Nadeau, Melanie Lavallee, Dené Sinclair and Fiona Muldrew. Cultural support provided by Wa-Say Healing Centre. Subgroups were facilitated by:

  • Wanda Barker
  • Davin Dumas
  • Sandra Hunter
  • Ron Nadeau
  • Sharissa Neault
  • Kevin Tacan
  • Dennis Chartrand
  • Cessi Haas
  • Dawnis Kennedy
  • Helen Robinson Settee
  • Corey Whitford

In the words of Dené Sinclair, who kindly shared these photos:

“I am filled up. Inspired. Motivated. Excited. The First Language Reclamation Summit was amazing and so much fun. Speakers & Learners working together to return to our languages. Holding each other up, having difficult conversations and envisioning a future for us all. The first of many gatherings, we hope.

Patricia Ningewance Nadeau is an amazing teacher, leader, friend, auntie and I am honoured to play a small part in making her vision come true. Right now, I need some sleep but our next step is writing the report, stay tuned for more to come.
We’ll be waiting and watching, and hoping to help the vision and the message move west.

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