One of the first in-person First Nations Language Keepers conferences since the COVID-19 pandemic is underway in Regina.

Indigenous knowledge keepers, elders, speakers, academics, and more are gathered to learn how to promote, protect and preserve First Nations languages and cultures.

The population of First Nations Peoples in Canada has been growing steady year over year but the amount of First Nations language speakers isn’t growing with the population. A Statistics Canada survey done in 2021 shows that Indigenous People in Canada who reported they can speak an Indigenous language well enough to hold a conversation dropped by 10,750 or 4.3% since 2016.

“We are suffering right now with our languages, and so a lot of work is going on there but one of the objectives we’re really wanting to focus on, and our vision is to bring back our language, culture and ceremony from the land,” said Dr. Jessie Slyvestre, President of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre.

Elders hold a great deal of valuable knowledge surrounding First Nations traditions and are a key component to the re-learning and re-introduction of First Nations languages and culture.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many influential Elders in the province became sick and some passed away. The fear of bringing back in-person conferences and potentially getting Elders sick again has halted in-person language keeping gatherings and conferences.

“With the setback we’ve lost many Elders and now it’s really hard to bring our Elders out for fear of getting that illness again, so it’s been pretty tough on many of us,” explained Slyvestre.

Now with the re-introduction of in-person language keeper conference’s First Nations people across the province and nation wide are ready to make big steps towards the re-introduction of language and culture for the future.

The First Nations Language Keepers Conference began today and will wrap up tomorrow, there are plans for a bigger FNLK conference which will take place in Saskatoon this November.

(Photo of the First Nations Language Keepers Conference in Regina. Courtesy of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre Facebook.)