Indigenous Language Reclamation: The Learners Perspective
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ABSTRACT This study explored the link between learning an Indigenous language and the meanings second language learners attach to their language recovery experiences. The study delves into the factors that motivate, enhance and serve as barriers to individual language revitalization efforts. With the goal of reasserting an Indigenous world view, the traditional teachings of the Ojibwe medicine wheel were combined with the lessons of the seven Grandfathers to provide a methodological basis for conducting ethical research with and for the benefit of First Nations people. Within the context of our relationships with self, community, spirit and environment, the pairing of Indigenous theory with the practical community experiences of Indigenous second language learners, demonstrates how Indigenous systems of thought and ontology lend themselves well to the critical understanding necessary to enhance the recovery our own endangered languages. These research findings indicate that there is a definite link between ancestral language reclamation and increased levels of self-esteem, a sense of grounded cultural identity and resilience, an overall sense of healing and the social responsibility that comes with receiving the gift of language. The barriers associated with learning an ancestral language intersect on multiple and often simultaneous levels making it difficult for the language learners to discover their origin.This research found that it was important for language learners to identify that they often carry a collective sense of shame associated with an internalized attachment to the modality of Indigeneity. Once the origin of this shame was acknowledged – as resulting from settler/assimilation logics, it was often possible for people to move forward in their language recovery journeys, while at the same time considering more broadly the structural barriers that make individual learning so difficult.