March 28, 2024 | Toronto Star via UVic News

Onowa McIvor, an Indigenous Education professor at the University of Victoria, emphasizes in a Toronto Star op-ed, the shared duty in reviving Indigenous languages, a key part of Canada’s history. Despite decades-long efforts to restore these languages, a 2023 survey revealed a decline in Indigenous language proficiency, largely due to the aging population of native speakers and past colonial efforts to sever cultural ties.

However, the survey also highlighted a 30% increase in new speakers of Indigenous languages like Haisla, Halq’emeylem, Heiltsuk, and Michif from 2016 to 2021, demonstrating the success of language rejuvenation initiatives. This progress reflects the commitment of Indigenous communities and their supporters to ensure future generations can fluently speak their ancestral languages.

McIvor, of Swampy Cree and Scottish-Canadian descent, and a language revitalization specialist, underscores the importance of collective action in supporting Indigenous rights and cultures. The article suggests actions like using Indigenous languages on welcome signs, restoring Indigenous place names, acknowledging traditional territories at meetings, learning about local Indigenous peoples, and advocating for Indigenous language education. It highlights the University of Victoria’s strategic plan as an example of institutional commitment to Indigenous Peoples’ rights and concludes by urging everyone to contribute to the revival of Indigenous languages.

In her role beyond academia, McIvor serves as the Project Director for the NEȾOLṈEW̱ Research Partnership, a national initiative based at the University of Victoria. For those interested in exploring her work or the contributions of the NEȾOLṈEW̱ Research Partnership, UVicSpace offers a comprehensive repository of their publications.