The Disconnect from the Spirit of the Language

Colonization, capitalism, and Christianity have each lead to a decline in fluency among Indigenous languages since contact in 1492. Each policy and law created and enforced by the government reflected an intention of removing the spirit of Indigenous peoples to the land, and therefore the languages. To an Indigenous academics’ soul, this research required many pauses of reflection, prayer and ceremony. This informed the approach and purpose of collaborative research with community members to discuss the spirit of the language, and propose community-based solutions to language revitalization and acquisition, wherein ceremony and healing is a priority. 

These are each as examined in three separate but inherently interwoven imperialist ideologies: Colonization, disconnecting Indigenous people from their languages and culture through forced removal, assimilation, enfranchisement, slaughter and slavery; Capitalism, enforcing diaspora of Indigenous peoples for the exploitation of their lived-upon lands while continentally damaging ecologies and many species for profit; and Christianity, which denounced the existence of Indigenous Peoples as peoples because they were not Christian, while also delivering state-funded residential schooling. The decline in fluency among all Indigenous languages is a result of the growing separation of Indigenous peoples to their lands through colonization; the degradation of ecologies and entire species as a result of capitalism; and the dominance of religious imperialism through Christianity. Together, these each led to a diffraction in the connection between Indigenous Peoples and the languages of the lands, and all living Creation it speaks about.


We examine each as inter-related causes of the disconnection between Indigenous peoples and their language.


The forced removal of Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral homelands

• Doctrine of Discovery (1493)

• War, starvation and disease (1500s – current)

• Between the 1700s – 1812, smallpox, influenza, measles and whooping cough would kill more Indigenous Peoples of this continent than the Bubonic Plague in Europe

• British-owned Indian Department forms (1755)

• French and Indian War / Seven Years War

• Royal Proclamation of 1763

• War of 1812

• Gradual Civilization Act (1857) and Indian Lands Act (1860)

• British North America Act (1867)

• Purchase of Rupert’s Land

• Gradual Enfranchisement Act (1869)

• Numbered Treaties (1870-1921)

• Canadian Homesteaders Act / Dominion Lands Act (1872)​

• Reserves were created for Indigenous Peoples so Canada could give the land to settlers

• Indian Advancement Act (1884) 

• Forced sterilization of Indigenous women (1830-2017)

• Indian Advancement Act (1884) 

• Child welfare system (1951-current)


The sale and slaughter of Indigenous Peoples to profit off of them and their lands

• Dum Diversas (June 18, 1452)

• Arrival of the Lost Colonizers (1492)

• Globalization is known to have begun among certain camps of historians (1492)

• Missing and murdered Indigenous women (1492)

• Colonies had to be profitable (1600s)

• Hudson Bay Company opens first post in nêhiyaw land (1667)

• De facto government following English Royal Charter (1670)

• North West Trading Company (1779)

• Trading leading to smallpox, measles, influenza, and whooping cough (1730s-)

• First industrial revolution: Steam engine (1712-1765)


• Steam engine would exacerbate Western expansion (through steam locomotives 1804), and would prompt signing treaties in the late 1800s

• Second industrial revolution: electric motor and combustion engine (1830s – 1876)

• Indian Lands Act (1860)

• Discovery of oil, gas, gold and diamonds in the Northern continent (late 1800s)

• Global neoliberalism (1930s-current)

• Third industrial revolution: micro-electronics and micro-processor (1969)

(Reference: Falkheimer & Heide, 2014)

• Fourth industrial revolution (2000s)


Religious imperialism allows for state-funded residential schools

• Governments sanction and fund churches to aide in colonization (1493)

• Manteo Baptized - Likely the earliest religious conversion in North America (1587)

• Missions first established (1610) 

• Wôpanâak written into SRO, through Eliot Bible (1663)

• Wompanoag peoples known to have higher literacy than colonizers 

• Residential school experiments begin by state (1780s)

• Mandated residential schools (1830)

• Indigenous languages appropriated for Eurocentric and religious linguistic approaches (1840s)

• Syllabics: Sequoyah and Calling Badger come up with their own syllabics. James Evans takes credit.

• Bagot Commission (1842-1844)

• Determined state-ran residential schools failed, and called for partnership with churches 

• Ryerson Report published, also encouraging residential schools (1847)

• Canada’s first prime minister encourages residential schools (March 29, 1867)


• Davin Report favours residential schools (March 14, 1879) 

• Langevin expresses support for residential schooling in House of Commons (May, 1883)

• Height of Residential Schooling, beginning of Indian Day Schools (1931)