Language Goes to Camp

It’s with great interest that I came across the release of Culture Camps for Language Learning: An Immersion Handbook, produced by the BC-based First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council. In my experience, culture camps like these present great opportunities for language learning.

In July 2004, I participated in a week-long Cree immersion camp in Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan. Under the creative co-ordination of Belinda Daniels Fiss, the goal of the camp was to fully immerse us within the Cree language. In essence, it gave us a safe space to sing, dance, cook and eat nêhiyawêwin — word by word. Albeit brief, I was struck by the ease of being removed from the ever-present dominance of English.

Leaving the camp, I was filled by the possibility of one day understanding and speaking my language. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by a profound anxiety that, within a generation or two, Cree could become one of the world’s dying Indigenous languages. I know that we will need collective and concerted efforts at protecting our languages.

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