First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council

Published on November 4, 2010 by John

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The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council (The First Peoples’ Council) is a First Nations governed Crown Corporation of the province of British Columbia, Canada. It is based in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia.

The First Peoples’ Council has been offering services and programs to support First Nations’ language, arts, and culture revitalization in British Columbia since it was established in 1990 through the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Act.

The mandate of the organization is to:

Provide funding to First Nations cultural and language programs
Support and advise government and First Nations leadership on initiatives, programs and services related to First Nations arts, language and culture
Provide services and resources to help revitalize the cultural legacy of First Nations people
Advocate for First Nations heritage and culture
Base funding for the First Peoples’ Council is provided through the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and further funds are raised through partnerships with public and private agencies (including the New Relationship Trust, the BC Arts Council and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development). The First Peoples’ Council works with its sister organization, The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation to raise awareness and funding for Aboriginal language revitalization.

Programs

The First Peoples’ Council pursues its mandate through the following programs:

FirstVoices

FirstVoices is an online indigenous language archive that participating communities can independently develop to house their orthography, alphabet, aural dictionaries, phrases, songs and stories. It also offers an interactive language tutor system. Over 60 communities archive their languages on FirstVoices, and 35 of those are open to the public.

In 2009, FirstVoices launched the FirstVoices Language Tutor, an interactive, online teaching application. The FirstVoices Language Tutor delivers graduated language exercises in vocabulary development, reading comprehension, listening and speaking. Language Tutor lessons are customizable and can be targeted to specific age groups or curriculum. Any word or phrase in an existing FirstVoices language archive can be used in a Language Tutor lesson, or new words and phrases can be added. The Language Tutor also offers a student tracking system that allows teachers to follow the progress of an entire classroom of students.

Language Programs

Language and Culture Camps

Initiated in 2008, the language and culture camps program creates an opportunity for First Nations’ families, Elders, youth and children to be immersed in their languages and cultures.

Language Nests

Language Nests provide language immersion for young children and their families through day-care and after-school care.

Master-Apprentice Program

The Master-Apprentice Program pairs a fluent Elder with a committed learner over a three-year commitment so the learner can become fluent and pass the language on to others.

The Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI)

A federally funded program through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the ALI provides funding for community projects to maintain, revitalize and promote First Nations languages. The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation is now the third-party funding provider for ALI funds, but the First Peoples’ Council continues to administer the program on the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation’s behalf.

The B.C. Languages Initiative (BCLI)

The BCLI is a provincially funded program through the First Citizens’ Fund.
It supports language projects that seek to revitalize Aboriginal languages in British Columbia.

Arts Programs

The First Peoples’ Council arts program supports the development of First Nations artists and arts organizations through mentoring, workshops, and organizational capacity building workshops.

Aboriginal Arts Development Award (AADA)

In partnership with The New Relationship Trust and the BC Arts Council, the arts program provides grants to Aboriginal artists, organizations and collectives, with applications accepted each fall.

Online Arts Toolkit

Supported by 2010 Legacies Now and the Canada Council for the Arts, the online arts toolkit provides Aboriginal artists with access to information and materials that can assist them in their careers, such as a grant writing handbook and an arts portfolio handbook.

Resources

In addition to developing programs to assist language revitalization efforts and support artists in First Nations communities, the First Peoples’ Council also develops resources to educate the population of British Columbia about Indigenous languages and their endangered status in B.C.

‘The First Peoples’ Language Map of British Columbia divides the province of British Columbia by approximate language boundary. It also houses comprehensive data on the First Nations and their languages based on Language Needs Assessments, which are filled out by communities seeking language funding from the First Peoples’ Council. The Language Map database continues to grow as communities update and fill out new Language Needs Assessments.

The 2010 Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages provides concrete data on the state of B.C. First Nations languages, including the number of speakers remaining, the number of students learning the languages, the resources available for each language and information on the language revitalization work being done in the province

The key findings of the 2010 report include:

Fluent First Nations language speakers made up 5% of the reporting population and the majority of those are over the age of 65.
People that reported as semi-fluent made up 8% of the reporting population and the level of fluency varies widely among this group.
A student enrolled in a First-Nations-operated school spends one to four hours learning a First Nations language per week. However, 34% of students attending a school of this type reported that they are not learning a First Nations language.
At their current rate of decline, the majority of First Nations languages could be extinct within five to six years.

Media Coverage

“Native languages face extinction”. Nanaimo Daily News. 2010-05-04.
“Protecting the past”. ‘A’ News Vancouver Island. 2010-04-24.
“Geek of the Week: First Peoples’ Language Map of British Columbia”. The Straight. 2009-07-16.
“Making Their Language Sing”. The Globe and Mail. 2008-10-14.
“Online archive adds life to rapidly dying aboriginal languages”. Vancouver Sun. 2008-09-08.
“Province Offers $100,000 for Aboriginal Art”. Victoria Times Colonist. 2008-06-30.

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