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Professor Regina Cree responds to StatCan data on the decline of indigenous languages

According to recently released census data from Statistics Canada, indigenous languages ​​ are in a slight decline. increase.

The 2021 Census focuses on Canadian languages, with data showing 189,000 individuals in Canada who reported having an Aboriginal mother tongue.

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Saskatchewan About 27,000 people are reported to have an indigenous language in the state. local native language. That number has fallen slightly since 2016, down about 7.1%, according to Statistics Canada.

"Now that decline is what we saw in the previous census," said Chris Penney, director of the Canadian Statistical Center for Indigenous Statistics and Partnerships. “The number of native language speakers is slowly and gradually declining. When you look at the number of individuals who can speak an indigenous language to conduct a conversation, Saskatchewan has a There were 35,000 people who could speak a good indigenous language, and that number was dropping a bit more."

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He said the number of people able to carry on a conversation in their native language has decreased by 7.9% since the last census.

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Salomon Rat, a fluent Cree speaker and professor at the Canadian University for Native Americans (FNUniv), looked at the census data and knew the numbers were not that low. Lat, who is also a seasoned author and has written several books on indigenous languages, said he sees firsthand how many people are mastering indigenous languages.

"The numbers are increasing...a lot of work is being done," he said. “We have summer camps, immersion camps, culture camps [and] land education camps. Northern Stanley He's from Mission. He's Swampy He's Cree, which means he speaks the 'th' dialect, but he learned to speak, read and teach the 'y' dialect.

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"'y' My first initial reaction when exposed to dialect is to dig my heels in and say This is because they say different things in the 'th' dialect.Then I thought, if I had that attitude...I wouldn't learn anything."So I put my pride in my back pocket. and said, 'OK, tell me.'"

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Ratt, who has been an Indigenous Cree professor for 38 years, said it was important to teach others to learn the language to carry on the tradition.

"All my life I have spoken in my own be able to understand the many lessons of the original and traditional stories," Rat said. "Our language is very important to who we are (as indigenous peoples)."

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There are 63 Indigenous communities in Canada and Statistics Canada was unable to collect data for 2021. This was due to a number of factors, including restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, forest fires and the discovery of unmarked graves. But Penney said historically, the number of people who speak indigenous languages ​​has been declining since the late 90s.

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"These trends are consistent with past census figures," Penney said. “We are confident in the numbers, which we can account for given the data quality issues that occur regularly.”

According to Census data, the most spoken language in Canada is Common indigenous languages ​​are Cree and Inuktitut.

Saskatchewan has 27,500 indigenous language speakers. Manitoba has 26,500 and Alberta has 24,600. Statistics Canada will release data on Indigenous languages ​​on September 21, broken down by Indigenous identity.

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