Three new Indigenous languages added to provincial curriculum

Saskatchewan Education Minister Gord Wyant smiles during the 2018 Saskatchewan Party Leadership Convention. Herald file photo.

Starting next year, three more Indigenous language courses will be available for school divisions across the province.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education announced it would make courses in Dene, Nakawe and Michif at the 10, 20 and 30 levels available for the 2019-20 school year.

The courses were previously available through locally-developed courses, put together by school divisions. Other school divisions could use the courses, but they had to apply for the ability to teach them. Now that the courses have provincial status, they can be taught by school divisions and First Nations authorities without them having to first apply for permission.

High school courses in Cree (nehiwawewin) are already offered in Saskatchewan.

“We want to see what we can do to fulfill our mandates under truth and reconciliation,” education Minister Gordon Wyant told reporters Tuesday.

“This was part of that. Making (the courses) available provincially is a pretty important step to make sure we preserve and perpetuate those languages.”

Dene is the language of the Denesuline people, whose traditional land includes Northern Saskatchewan. Michif is the language of the Métis, while Nakawe is spoken by the Salteaux of Central Saskatchewan.

According to a statement provided by the ministry, the province expects that many school divisions will be interested in adding the new Indigenous language courses to their course offerings.

School boards are responsible for determining the elective programming options their divisions will offer to students. Recommended resource lists are posted online for teachers to use, including resources about residential schools, Treaties and other First Nation and Métis content, perspectives and methods of understanding. Those resources are offered through a contract with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. The province said the same system will be used to identify resources to support Indigenous language learning.

 “It’s important for students from a number of perspectives, Wyant said.

“Not just because they’ll get credits, but because they’ll be able to perpetuate their native languages. I think that’s important, to ensure culturally, that those languages are preserved in Saskatchewan.”

Wyant said the adoption of three more Indigenous language courses on a provincial level is another sign the province is doing its part under the educational mandates of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

“It’s an extension of the work we have already done,” he said.

‘We were the first province to introduce treaty education. We’ve renewed that commitment with some announcements made last year, so this is a natural extension of that work and the work we are doing to support truth and reconciliation.”

The announcement was praised by the Treaty Commissioner and by the Metis Nation Saskatchewan.

“This renewed effort to acknowledge the significance of Indigenous languages and expand learning opportunities is an important step in creating inclusive learning environments for students and a meaningful step toward reconciliation in Saskatchewan,” Treaty Commissioner Mary Culbertson said.

“One day we hope to see all the linguistic groups throughout these territories represented and accessible in our schools so all our grandchildren will see themselves in their classrooms.”

“It is encouraging to see a Métis language included in these efforts,” Métis Nation –Saskatchewan Education Minister Earl Cook said.

“The retention and preservation of our Indigenous languages have been an important focus of mine. This will assist in the retention of Michif, our official language. Providing Indigenous students with meaningful opportunities to learn about and connect with their cultural heritage is key to their success.”