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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 28, 2003 - Issue 90


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Web Site Being Created to Save First Nation's Languages

by Jim Beatty Vancouver Sun
credits: First Voices

VICTORIA --A high-tech tool aimed at preserving and protecting aboriginal language was launched Thursday by the B.C. government.

With just 32 First Nations languages remaining in B.C. -- countless others have already died out -- the government is creating a Web site to save them from extinction.

The site, at, allows B.C. bands to archive text, sound, pictures and video before their elders die off, taking with them critical links to the past.

"Language is the key to the survival of First Nations," said Simon Robinson, executive director of the First Peoples' Cultural Foundation. "When you know your language, you know yourself."

On Thursday, the B.C. government formally contributed $450,000 to the Web site, which should be in operation soon.

An international team of aboriginal language educators designed the site to be an easy and cost-effective way to record and teach indigenous language to anyone with Internet access.

Compared to the rest of Canada, B.C. remains linguistically rich. The province is home to 60 per cent of all aboriginal languages in the country.

Yet many are in danger of being lost. The once-prevalent language of the Saanich First Nation, called the Suncathun, has fewer than 20 speakers.

"We're struggling to keep our language going," said John Elliott, a teacher at the Victoria-area Lau,Welnew Tribal School who helped conceive the Web site.

Thursday's contribution to the Web site is just the start. As of next year, the province will contribute $1 million annually. Corporate sponsors are also contributing to the effort, which is expected to cost $1.5 million a year when in full operation.

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