About the Spirit of the Language Project
The spirit within Indigenous languages is shared through generations by the language of the land. This research works with Indigenous communities to find patterns of actions that had traumatic impacts on language loss and disconnection to the spirit of the language and land, and provides community-identified resources for healing from that disconnect. This research provides an academic resource for nêhiyawak and other Indigenous Peoples to assert sovereignty over their own Indigenous language learning and community building in ceremony and healing in a self-determined and community-based way.
As with most Indigenous-led research, this work is conducted in ceremony, community visits, and sharing circles with Elders and community members. Those collaborating with us in the sharing circles and community visits spoke towards land-based Indigenous learning pedagogies, various sharing and learning methods as a part of living the language, and conducting the work through ceremony. These community conversations also identified the holistic worldview of the language as being from and of the land, therefore of its own spirit.
These discussions also identified problems of previous research around Indigenous communities and languages, intellectual ownership of conversations shared, hesitations around institutional involvement, and the historical and ongoing consequences of colonization, capitalism, and residential schooling — as each affects Indigenous relationships with the language, land, and ancestral governance and kinship systems.
The Spirit of the Language
Dr. Lana Whiskeyjack
Lana is a treaty iskwew from Saddle Lake Cree Nation and is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta (since 2017). In 2017, Lana completed her iyiniw pimâtisiwin kiskeyihtamowin doctoral program at University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quill, a former Indian Residential School attended by two generations of her own family. Lana leads this research.
Kyle is Dene/nêhiyaw Métis from Northwest Territory Métis Nation who has dedicated himself to Indigenous language reclamation. He worked with his nation for four years, and is now a graduate student through the University of Alberta.
Amanda Almond is a Project Coordinator at the University of Alberta, and currently studying for her Masters of Arts in Community Engagement. Her studies focus on Indigenous digital storytelling through augmented reality.
Both Lana and Kyle are nêhiyawak dedicated to supporting nêhiyawêwin revitalization and acquisition while restoring their connection to the language, communities, and the land. This research and work intends to support communities in reconnecting the spirit of the language and relationship with the land.
Thank you to Christina Buffalo for her bilingual transcription skills and contributions to the (Re)Connecting to the Spirit of the Language project.