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Preserving a language one shelf at a time

Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and We Wai Kai Chief Ralph Dick chat at announcement of Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre library funding.  - Brian Kieran
Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and We Wai Kai Chief Ralph Dick chat at announcement of Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre library funding.
— image credit: Brian Kieran

It was only $7,000 worth of library shelving, but the speakers of the Kwak’wala/Liqwala language see it as a platform to ensure their voice lives on for generations.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, the MP for Vancouver Island North, visited the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre on Quadra Island Saturday to announce $7,000 in funding from the Western Economic Diversification Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund to help the Centre install new library shelving.

The Centre currently has a collection of First Nations books that are in storage and inaccessible. With the funding, the Nuyumbalees Society will be able to construct shelving at the centre that can display this collection and make it accessible to members of the community and the public.

Minister Duncan said: “I have had many conversations about Nuyumbalees and about retaining the language and retaining the culture. As a backdrop to today’s announcement we have found two years of funding for language preservation which will lead to language education. It is vital that this occur at this time because the dialect is still alive but there are precious few people who are able to speak it.

“We know that as long as you can document (the language) and get it preserved then you can turn it into a teaching tool.” Duncan pledged to try and keep the funding “going forward.”

Donald Assu, President of the Nuyumbalees Society, said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank Minister Duncan for announcing the generous support ... not only in the area of the library book shelves which we greatly appreciate but also support we received that is enabling us to preserve the Kwak’wala/Liqwala language.”

The Chief Negotiator for the Lacih-Kwii-Tach Treaty Society, Rod Naknakim, said the revival of the Kwak’wala/Liqwala language has “brought our families together.”

“We are really hopeful our language will become revived. It makes such a difference with our people in terms of reaffirming our identity, reviving our culture and giving us the strength and hope to be positive in the way we go forward. Thank goodness we have a library going. It contributes to everything we are trying to achieve.”

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