Thursday, April 13, 2006

Another Canadian Aboriginal Language Threatened

Another Canadian aboriginal language is being threatened with extinction as fewer than 1,000 speakers in the world speak Michif. Métis people have struggled for years to protect their language. To make matters worse, Canada's multi-million dollar Aboriginal Languages Initiative, which provide funds to save Canada's dying languages, may end. “We all expected (the program) to continue, and now it’s uncertain,” said Bruce Dumont, the Métis Nation minister of culture and heritage. “We ... are at a crossroads with a new government that is far from clear in their stance (on Aboriginal language preservation).”

Michif is a complicated blend of French and Cree, with many regional dialects that are different from one another. “Most people speaking it didn’t even realize it was its own language,” said Michif language coordinator Carey Calder. “They assumed many of the words were very old French, when in fact they were very old Cree.” Canada is home to many Metis, with a large population around Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Metis became their own culture as 18th-19th century French fur traders married local Canadian Aboriginal women. Today, CD-ROMs and interactive websites teach Michif to youngsters and a web radio station plays Métis music and language all over the world.


For more on culture, see Canadian Aboriginal Art at Free Spirit Gallery.

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