What do you do when a traditional First Nations language is dying? For the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, one of the answers is not traditional in the least – play Nintendo.
Thanks to a 2012-13 language and culture grant of $25,000 from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), the society worked with video-game designer Thornton Media Inc. to develop language learning games for Nintendo DSi. The fun and interactive video games help teach children Secwepemctsín, the traditional language of the Secwepemc First Nations people.
Elders and other fluent Secwepemctsín speakers recorded audio for games, quizzes and songs in their western/northern and eastern dialects. The games are now being used in Secwepemc child-care centres to help revive the language among the younger generation.
A variety of other methods of teaching traditional language to young children are also underway, including having elders speak to children’s groups, story time with children’s books written in a traditional language, and singing songs in a traditional language.
Prior to European contact, approximately 20,000 people spoke Secwepemctsín. According to recent surveys, only about 150 fluent speakers remain, and most of them are over 65. The majority of Secwepemctsín learners are under the age of 19.
The funding is from MCFD’s Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Reinvestment Program, which provides $5 million each year towards early childhood programs for First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Métis children, from birth to six years old. Many projects include working with elders to incorporate cultural and language learning into early childhood education.
Projects are guided by the First Nations and Urban Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Steering Committee, which determines yearly funding priorities based on input from Aboriginal communities. Since the program began in 2010, MCFD has provided $16 million in funding for more than 1,000 community projects and programs across B.C.
In addition, the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation provides more than $1 million annually to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC). Since 1990, the FPCC has distributed over $20 million to Aboriginal communities for language, arts and culture projects, including providing nearly $150,000 to Secwepemctsín language programs in 2012-13.
* To find out more about MCFD Aboriginal early-childhood development programs, go to: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/early_childhood/aecd.htm
* For information on the First Nations and Urban Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Steering Committee and the reinvestment program, go to: www.fnuaecdsc.ca/
* To learn more about the Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, go to: www.secwepemc.org/