The Atlas of Canadian Languages

September 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Language, Maps | 1 Comment
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I arrived to this series of maps by the Atlas of Canada via the Alaska Native Languages Map blog. They offer information about the situation of languages in Canada, from three different perspectives: the linguistic group, the usage and the continuity:

Atlas of Canada

The linguistic group map

The current 50 languages of Canada’s indigenous peoples belong to 11 major language families – ten First Nations and Inuktitut. Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. This map shows the major aboriginal language families by community in Canada for the year 1996, and it is a part of a series of three maps that comprise Aboriginal Languages.

Some language families are large and strong in terms of viability, others small and vulnerable. The three largest families, which together represent 93% of persons with an Aboriginal mother tongue, are Algonquian (with 147 000 people whose mother tongue is Algonquian), Inuktitut (with 28 000) and Athabaskan (with 20 000). The other eight account for the remaining 7%. Tlingit, one of the smallest families, has a mere 145 people in Canada whose mother tongue is that language. Similar variations apply to individual languages – Cree, with a mother tongue population of 88 000, appears immense when compared with Malecite at 660.
Influence of Geography on the Size and Diversity of Languages

Geography is an important contributor to the diversity, size and distribution of Aboriginal languages across Canada’s regions. Open plains and hilly woodlands, for example, are ideal for accommodating large groups of people. Because of the terrain, groups in these locations can travel and communicate with each other relatively easily, and often tend to spread over larger areas.

On the other hand, soaring mountains and deep gorges tend to restrict settlements to small pockets of isolated groups. British Columbia’s mountainous landscape with its numerous physical barriers was likely an important factor in the evolution of the province’s many separate, now mostly small, languages. Divided by terrain, languages such as Salish, Tsimshian, Wakashan, Haida, Tlingit and Kutenai could not develop as large a population base as the widely spread Algonquinian (particularly Cree and Ojibway) and the Athapaskan languages, whose homes are the more open central plains and eastern woodlands.

Geography can also influence the likelihood of a language’s survival. Groups located in relatively isolated regions, away from the dominant culture, face fewer pressures to abandon their language. They tend to use their own language in schooling, broadcasting and other communication services and, as a result, are likely to stay more self-sufficient. Communities living in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, the northern regions of Quebec and Labrador – the Inuit, Attikamek and Montagnais-Naskapi – are examples of such groups.

Because of their large, widely dispersed populations, the Algonquian languages account for the highest share of Aboriginal languages in all provinces except British Columbia and in the territories, ranging from 72% in Newfoundland to nearly 100% in the other Atlantic provinces. In both British Columbia and the Yukon, the Athapascan languages make up the largest share (26% and 80%, respectively), while Inuktitut is the most prominent Aboriginal language in the Northwest Territories and practically the only one in Nunavut. British Columbia, home to about half of all individual Aboriginal languages, is the most diverse in Aboriginal language composition. However, because of the small size of these language groups, the province accounts for only 7% of people with an Aboriginal mother tongue.

The ability map

The Index of Ability compares the number of people who report being able to speak the language with the number who have that Aboriginal language as a mother tongue. The index has been compiled and mapped for each of the Aboriginal communities shown in the map Aboriginal Languages by Community, 1996. Relatively higher values of this index may suggest some degree of language revival. This map is part of a series of three maps that comprise Aboriginal Languages.

The INDEX OF ABILITY may be used to suggest some degree of language revival. The index of ability compares the number of people who report being able to speak the language with the number who have that Aboriginal language as a mother tongue (consult text Data and Mapping Notes for further information).

There are a number of factors which contribute to a language’s ability to survive. First and foremost is the size of the population with an Aboriginal mother tongue or home language. Since a large base of speakers is essential to ensure long-term viability, the more speakers a language has, the better its chances of survival. Indeed, Inuktitut, Cree and Ojibway – the three most flourishing languages – all boast over 20 000 people with an Aboriginal mother tongue. In contrast, endangered languages rarely have more than a few thousand speakers; often they have only a few hundred. For instance, the two smallest and weakest language groups, Kutenai and Tlingit, have mother tongue populations of 120 and 145 respectively.

To survive, a language must be passed on from one generation to the next. The most effective way of making this happen is to speak it in the home where children will learn it as their mother tongue. Spoken in the home, language is used as the working tool of everyday life. In contrast, when learned as a second language, it is often used in potentially limited situations, only as may be the case, for example, in immersion programs. There is, therefore, no equivalent to learning a language as a mother tongue. Unlike other minority language groups, Aboriginals cannot rely on new immigrants to maintain or increase their population of speakers. Consequently, passing on the language from parents to children is critical for the survival of all Aboriginal languages.

The continuity map

The Index of Continuity measures language continuity, or vitality, by comparing the number of those who speak a given language at home to the number of those who learned the language as their mother tongue. The index has been compiled and mapped for each of the Aboriginal communities shown in the map Aboriginal Languages by Community, 1996. The lower the score, the greater the decline or erosion of language continuity. This map is part of a series of three maps that comprise Aboriginal Languages.

One way of measuring language continuity or vitality is the INDEX OF CONTINUITY. This index measures language continuity or vitality by comparing the number of those who speak an Aboriginal language at home to the number of those who learned the language as their mother tongue (consult text Data and Mapping Notes for further information).

Between 1981 and 1996, the index of continuity declined for all Aboriginal languages. Although the number of people reporting an Aboriginal mother tongue increased by nearly 24% between 1981 and 1996, the number of those who spoke an Aboriginal language at home grew by only 6%. As a result, for every 100 people with an Aboriginal mother tongue, the number who used an indigenous language most often at home declined from 76 to 65 between 1981 and 1996.

The index of continuity has some relationship to the ratings of languages as viable or endangered. Although most languages experienced a steady erosion in linguistic vitality during these years, endangered ones suffered the most. For example, the index of continuity for Salish languages fell from 35 in 1981 to only 12 by 1996. Tlingit and Kutenai, as languages most often spoken at home, had practically disappeared by the 1990s. Given that in 1996 there were only 120 people with a Kutenai mother tongue, it is not hard to see why there is a serious concern for the survival of this language. In contrast, although the continuity index dipped for the relatively strong Cree as well, it did so by considerably less: from 78 to 65. Although Inuktitut did experience a slight erosion in the early 1980’s, the past decade has seen its index stabilize at 84.

Groups that live in remote communities or in settlements with concentrated populations of indigenous speakers appear to find it easier to retain their language. Indeed, two such groups, on-reserve Registered Indians and the Inuit, show the highest indexes of language continuity among all groups: 80 and 85, respectively. In contrast, non-status Indians and Metis, who tend to live off-reserve, as well as off-reserve registered Indians have home-language-mother tongue ratios of 58, 50 and 40 respectively. This suggests a more pronounced state of language decline. Clearly, the off-reserve environment poses major threats to Aboriginal languages.

By 1996, these rates of language erosion resulted in strikingly different continuity levels for viable and endangered languages as a whole. For every 100 speakers with an Aboriginal mother tongue, an average of about 70 used an Aboriginal home language among viable groups, compared with 30 or fewer among endangered groups.

You can read data and mapping notes here.

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What about Inuinnaqtun?

August 25, 2008 at 2:31 am | Posted in Canada, Language, Maps | 4 Comments
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In the last post it arose a doubt about the languages of Nunavut, the Innu land in Canada. In their website they talk about Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, as if they were separate languages. I googled it, and the Wikipedia says:

Inuinnaqtun is an indigenous language of Canada. It is related very closely to Inuktitut, and many people believe that Inuinnaqtun is only a dialect of Inuktitut. The governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut recognise Inuinnaqtun as an official language in addition to Inuktitut.

Inuinnaqtun is used primarily in the communities of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk in the western Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. To a smaller extent it is also spoken in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. Outside of Nunavut it is spoken in the hamlet of Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, where it is called Kangiryuarmiutun. It is written using the Latin alphabet.

Spoken in: Canada (Nunavut and Northwest Territories)
Total speakers: approximately 2,000
Language family: Inuit

I also found this in the Nunavut’s Languages Comissioner:

Inuktitut/Inuinnaqtun is the largest language group in Nunavut. Seventy percent of Nunavummiut speak Inuktitut as their first language.

Inuktitut is divided up into a number of different dialects, including Inuinnaqtun, which is spoken in the western-most parts of the territory. Inuinnaqtun uses Roman orthography, rather than syllabics.

This last page has a lot of material, I will dig into it later on!

Tunngasugitti, and Welcome to Nunavut!

August 24, 2008 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Canada, History, Organization | 1 Comment
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More facts about Nunavut from a PDF document of their site.

GOVERNMENT OF NUNAVUT
Tunngasugitti, and Welcome to Nunavut!
Our Land

Nunavut (the Inuktitut word for “our land”) was created April 1, 1999 as a result of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. For millennia a major Inuit homeland, Nunavut today is a growing society that blends the strength of its deep Inuit roots and traditions with a new spirit of diversity.

It is a territory that spans the two million square kilometres of Canada extending north and west of Hudson’s Bay, above the tree line to the North Pole. With landscapes that range from the flat muskeg of the Kivalliq to the towering mountain peaks and fiords of North Baffin, it is a Territory of extraordinary variety and breathtaking beauty.

With a median age of 22.1 years, Nunavut’s population is the youngest in Canada. It is also one of the fastest growing; the 2001 population of just under 29,000 represents an increase of eight per cent in only five years. Inuit represent about 85 percent of the population, and form the foundation of the Territory’s culture. Government, business and day-to-day life are shaped by Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, the traditional knowledge, values and wisdom of Nunavut’s founding people.

Our 26 communities range in size from tiny Bathurst Inlet (population 25) to Iqaluit, the capital (population almost 6,500). Grise Fiord, the northernmost settlement, lies at 78 degrees north: the hamlet of Sanikiluaq in the Belcher Islands is actually further south than Ontario’s northern border. None are accessible by road or rail; everything, from people to fuel to food, arrives by plane or sealift. This physical isolation accounts for the highest cost of living in Canada, reflected in prices throughout the Territory.

The largest employer in Nunavut is government – federal, territorial, and municipal. But new jobs are rapidly emerging in the mining and resource development sectors. Important growth is also occurring in the tourism sector, in fisheries, and in Inuit art such as carvings and prints.

The realization of Nunavut’s full economic potential will, in part, be contingent upon the improvement of the territory’s infrastructure. Existing housing, sewage and waste management, transportation and telecommunications systems are already stretched beyond their limits, and will come under even greater pressure from Nunavut’s growing population.

With four languages (Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French), an area one-fifth the size of Canada, and a population density of one person per 70 km sq., the creation of Nunavut has called for innovative approaches to the delivery of virtually every aspect of government programs and services.

From health to education, from justice to the structure of the Legislative Assembly, the institutions and structures that define Nunavut are designed to meet the needs of a unique people in a unique land.

The challenges are many; but in partnership with Canada, and building on the strength and energy of its people, Canada’s newest Territory looks to the future with confidence and hope.

So it seems that I have been missing one language, Inuinnaqtun. And I do not know if there are more non-official languages. And I also have to look for more information about the Cree people, I do not know if they share the same territories or not. So homework for the next days!

Nunavut Government

August 23, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Posted in Canada, Demographics, Organization | Leave a comment
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A quick look to the Inuit Government of Canada, Nunavut:

Tunngasugitti – welcome to
the Government of Nunavut

Nunavut — “our land” in the Inuktitut language – has been home to Inuit for millennia and part of Canada for more than a century. Embracing both traditional knowledge and values and the new opportunities presented by technologies like the Internet, the Government of Nunavut now provides a wide range of services tailored to the unique needs of approximately 29,500 residents.

Facts About Nunavut

Read about our people and culture, wildlife, official symbols, background about Nunavut Land Claim, and much more.

Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

Look up MLA contact information, read up on Acts and regulations, Throne Speech, Hansard, status of Bills and more.

Nunavut Business Information

Nunavut is a place of great economic growth. Read the latest Requests for Proposals about the Inuit/Northern Preference and information about Starting a Business.

2007 Western Premiers’ Conference

July 4 to 6, 2007 Iqaluit Nunavut

Commissioner’s Arts Award

Annirusuktugut – Suicide Intervention and Prevention Strategy

The site includes a map of Nunavut, a list of the communities, and some interesting fact sheets.

Quite an interesting site! Though a bit more of information an maps would be interesting.

Avataq Cultural Institute

August 6, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Canada, History, Language, Organization, Traditions | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I found this interesting website from Avataq Cultural Institute:

Avataq Cultural Institute

Avataq Cultural Institute provides a strong foundation for the living culture of today’s Inuit. Since its inception in 1980, Avataq has built a solid reputation as the cultural leader for Nunavik Inuit and as an important resource for Inuit culture in Canada and beyond. Our goal is to ensure that Inuit culture and language continue to thrive into the future, so that our descendants can benefit from the rich heritage passed down to us through the wisdom of our ancestors.


About Us

Founded in 1980, Avataq Cultural Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the language and culture of Inuit in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). The organization has its head office in Inukjuak, Nunavik, and an administrative office in Westmount, Quebec.

Avataq receives its mandate directly from Nunavik Inuit at the biennial Nunavik Inuit Elders’ Conferences. Avataq has a board of directors comprising five Inuit members elected for two-year terms.

The programs and services of the Avataq Cultural Institute include: an Inuktitut promotion and preservation program, a genealogy program, a Nunavik museums program, a Nunavik Inuit art collection, an archaeology department, an artists’ support program, a documentation and archives centre, local cultural committees, traditional skills courses, as well as a research and publications service.

Through its language, heritage and cultural programs, the Avataq Cultural Institute is striving to support and preserve Inuit culture for present and future generations.

I have a photographic day, as you see 😉 I copied a lot of nice photos they have on their website. They have a very very interesting section about the Inuit in Nunavik, as well as maps. This will be for another post tonight! As an extra, you can download the Inuktitut fonts for your computer too! The link is here!

CINE, investigating indigenous diet in Canada

August 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Posted in Canada, Health, Research | Leave a comment
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A good friend of mine, whose eyes are open and awake even in the 5th of August, found this information for me in the CINE (Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment) website:

GLOBAL HEALTH CASE STUDY – INUIT (BAFFIN REGION) NUNAVUT TERRITORY, CANADA

Introduction

The Territory of Nunavut was formed in 1992, and represents an Inuit self-ruled territory. The Baffin Region of Nunavut is the most traditional of Canadian Inuit Regions and is home to Inuit (Figure 1).

Studies in this region have shown that traditional food has a central role in the life of Inuit. Therefore, with support from the Northern Contaminants Program and with participation and guidance of the Inuit Tapiriit of Canada, the research took place from 1997 -2000 in 5 regions of Inuit communities with the objectives:

– To derive quantitative estimates of traditional/country and market food intake among Inuit in 5 regions (Inuvialuit, Kitikmeot, Keewatin, Baffin and Labrador), representing approximately 50 communities.
– To complete databases of nutrient and contaminant contents of traditional foods.
– To define benefits of traditional foods in terms of nutritional, socioeconomic and cultural significance.
– To define the levels of dietary exposure to contaminants (mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead and several organochlorines).

A total of 1929 participants were randomly selected for interviews. The information on food consumption took place during fall of 1998 and winter of 1999, using 24- hr recalls, food frequency interviews, and 7-day food records.

The study team was comprised of the following:

Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE), McGill University, Québec, Canada, H9X 3V9.

1. Grace M. Egeland, Ph.D.
2. Rula Souieda
3. Harriet Kuhnlein, Ph.D., R.D

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Health Office, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

1. Looee Okalik
2. Eric Loring

Notes on food groups

Seventy-nine different foods were identified for use in Baffin region, where Pangnirtung is located and among these are numerous species of fish and shellfish, marine and land mammals, birds, plant and berries as part of the traditional food system. The analyses of all foods were carried out in the CINE laboratory.

Information on 79 foods collected was divided into five groups:

1. Fish and Seafood
2. Sea Mammals
3. Land Mammals
4. Game and Birds
5. Berries

Nutrient composition of Baffin Inuit foods is presented in CINE’s Arctic Nutrient File providing access to nutrient information on traditional food (country food) for Canada’s Northern Indigenous Peoples.

The purpose of this resource is to present a reflection of the usual composition of foods available and/or consumed among Inuit community members. This is a living document and nutrient information will be added and/or updated when available.

Seasonality of use, harvest information, type of procurement and other relevant information were collected through household and key informant interviews.

Notes on food components

Vitamin A values are reported in both Vitamin A retinol equivalents (RE-µg) and in retinol activity equivalents (RAE-µg). These values are calculated and reported for only those foods for which retinol, beta carotene and total carotene values are available. Vitamin A (RAE-µg) values are reported for compatibility with the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) recommendations.

Folate values are reported in Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE), in addition to reporting of natural folate present in foods

References

1. Fediuk, K., Hidiroglou, N., Madère, R. & Kuhnlein, H.V. (2002) Vitamin C in Inuit traditional food and women’s diets. J. Food Compos. Anal. 15: 221-235.
2. Kuhnlein, H.V., Receveur, O., Chan H.M., and Loring E. August, 2000. Assessment of Dietary Benefit/Risk in Inuit Communities. Technical report (ISBN # 0-7717-0558-1). Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE), McGill.
3. Kuhnlein, H. V., Kubow, S. & Soueida, R. (1991) Lipid components of traditional Inuit foods and diets of Baffin Island. J. Food Compos. Anal. 4(3): 227-236.
4. Kuhnlein, H. V. & Soueida, R. (1992) Use and nutrient composition of traditional Baffin Inuit foods. J. Food Compos. Anal. 5(2): 112-126.
5. Kuhnlein, H. V., Receveur, O. & Ing, A. (2001) Energy, fat and calcium in bannock consumed by Canadian Inuit. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 101(5): 580-581.
6. Kuhnlein, H. V., Chan, H. M., Leggee, D. & Barthet, V. (2002) Macronutrient, mineral and fatty acid composition of Canadian Arctic traditional food. J. Food Compos. Anal. 15: 545-566.
7. 7. Kuhnlein, H. V., Barthet, V., Farren, E., Falahi, E., Leggee, D., Receveur, O. and Berti, P. (2006) Vitamins A, D, and E in Canadian Arctic Traditional Food and Adult Diets. J. Food Compos. Anal. 19: 495-506.

The pity is that this study is not completely available on-line right now, only a part here. I already told about the side effects of the non-indigenous diets on indigenous populations, and it seems that this institute in Canada investigates in this directions. Good to know that, then! They have more information, so I will be posting about them for a while.

Produced by Nutaaq

August 5, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Posted in Canada, Education, Organization | Leave a comment
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Last week I found a production company settled down in Québec, Canada, called Nutaaq. As they explain, they are specialized on multi-cultural and indigenous subjects. This is quite interesting, isn’t it?

Nutaaq Média

Nutaaq Média, Inc. was incorporated in 1991 with the goal of producing both independent and sponsored film, video and interactive media projects.

Although most of Nutaaq productions concern the Arctic or northern issues, Nutaaq has also shot many projects in southern Canada, as well as one project in South America. Our multi-cultural experience is indeed one of our great strengths.
Nutaaq Média represents many years of production experience which allow it to create broadcast programming intended for a mass audience or sponsored projects tailored to a specific few.

Working with a team of talented professionals and state of the art facilities for digital non-linear editing and multi-media authoring, Nutaaq Média produces effective multi-media, sponsored or broadcast programming tailored to client and audience needs in whichever languages are required. In the past, Nutaaq has produced programs in French, English, Inuktitut and Cree, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, German and Italian. Nutaaq can also title and sub-title programs in any language. We also do closed captioning.

Recent Productions

Finding My Talk:A Journey through Aboriginal Languages This one hour documentary follows the journey of Cree filmmaker Paul M. Rickard as he searches for his own language roots and discovers the tireless efforts of many individuals who are promoting, reviving and preserving the use of Aboriginal languages within their communities. Distributed by Mushkeg Media Inc.

Broken Promises: The High Arctic Relocation In the summer of 1953, the Canadian government relocated seven Inuit families from Northern Québec to the High Arctic. They were promised an abundance of game and fish – in short, a better life. The government assured the Inuit that if things didn’t work out, they could return home after two years. Two years later, another 35 people joined them. It would be thirty years before any of them saw their ancestral lands again. Distributed by Nutaaq and National Film Board of Canada.

Nunavik Heritage CD-ROM The photographs reflect the life and people of Northern Québec (Nunavik) from the 1880’s till the present. The flexibility of the CD-ROM software allows the images to be organized and retrieved by thematic categories such as specific individuals or families, geographical locations, time periods, historical events or photograph contents. The disc design maximizes user interaction and allows images to be printed or incorporated into other documents. Distributed by Avataq Cultural Institute.

Running the Midnight Sun To their friends they’re eccentric, to the Inuit they’re bizarre, but they consider themselves just ordinary people who like to push themselves to the limit. They are ultra runners. Once a year, under a sun that never sets, they gather from all over North America to challenge an 84 kilometer gravel road located 700 kilometers above the Arctic Circle. Distributed by Nutaaq.

North to Nowhere: Quest for the Pole In North to Nowhere, nine adventurers from five countries attempt the Polar trek. They include Shinzi Kazama, a motorcyclist from Japan; Pam Flowers, a ninety pound dogsledder from Alaska; Nicholas Hulot and Hubert de Chevigny, ultra-light pilots from France and Dick Smith, an Australian helicopter pilot. As well, a planeload of American tourists fly to the Pole for a very expensive one hour photo opportunity. No Distributer (unavailable).

They produced some documentaries in Inuktitut and Cree, this is interesting. I contacted them since living in Barcelona it is impossible to watch their programs, but the only option was to buy them, and that was really expensive for me too! I may wait when a relative or friend travel there, to see if they find something!

Survival’s campaign: Progress can kill

July 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Canada, Rights | 1 Comment
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And actually, it does kill, as it shows one of the most shocking campaigns. To keep the post on topic I will include here only the information related with polar tribes, but please, go and check the full campaign as it deserves all your attention.

Progress can kill

Forcing ‘development’ or ‘progress’ on tribal people does not make them happier or healthier. In fact, the effects are disastrous. The most important factor by far for tribal peoples’ well-being is whether their land rights are respected. Some of the problems affecting tribal peoples are HIV/AIDS, starvation, obesity, suicide or addiction. The last three specially affect the indigenous people living around the polar circle.

Obesity
Tribal peoples without land are forced into a sedentary life and many become dependent on processed foods. This change in lifestyle and diet – from high-protein to high-fat food – is often disastrous, leading to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the Pima reservation (Arizona), more than half of Indians over the age of 35 have diabetes; while those living in the mountains suffer far less from this condition. The International Diabetes Federation predicts that excess weight and diabetes will lead to ‘earlier deaths and disabilities’. If untreated or detected late – as is common with tribal peoples – diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease and amputations. The impact on future generations will be catastrophic.

‘The human costs of unrestrained development on our traditional territory, whether in the form of massive hydroelectric development or irresponsible forestry operations, are no surprise for us. Diabetes has followed the destruction of our traditional way of life and the imposition of a welfare economy. Now we see that one in seven pregnant Cree women is sick with this disease, and our children are being born high risk or actually sick.’
Matthew Coon-Come, Cree, 2002

Addiction
Dispossessed and alienated tribal peoples often take to drugs, usually the cheapest and most easily available such as alcohol and petrol. The health of individuals and families collapses. Babies are born with foetal alcohol syndrome, children get little care from addict parents, teenagers follow suit, and once-respected elders are alienated from younger generations. Cycles are fixed which cannot be broken by merely treating individuals or symptoms. The entire society falls apart.

Among Innu youth, sniffing petrol is an acute problem. In the long term this addiction can cause convulsions and permanent damage to the kidneys, eyes, liver, bone marrow and heart. In 2000, 11-year-old Charles Rich died by accidentally setting himself on fire when sniffing petrol. A child who witnessed this horrific death said:

‘My name is Phillip. I’m a gas [petrol] sniffer. I sniff gas with my friends. In wintertime, we steal skidoos and we steal gas… I don’t go home because I sniff gas. And I sniff gas because both my parents are drinking and I’m mad at that… At one point Charles ran towards me when he was in flames but because I was sniffing gas and the fumes were very strong on me, I ran away. I was afraid I would be caught on fire too.’

Suicide
Tribal people across the world suffer from the trauma of forced relocation and settlement. They find themselves in an environment they are not used to, where there is nothing useful to do, and where they are treated with racist disdain by their new neighbours.

Their children may be taken to boarding schools which separate them from their communities and often forbid or ridicule their language and traditions.

Alienated and without hope, many take to drugs and alcohol. Domestic violence and sexual abuse soar. Many resort to suicide. In Canada, Indian groups who have lost their connection to their land have suicide rates up to ten times the national average; those with strong links often see no suicides at all.

The Guarani are committing suicide because we have no land. We don’t have space any more. In the old days, we were free, now we are no longer free. So our young people look around them and think there is nothing left and wonder how they can live. They sit down and think, they forget, they lose themselves and then commit suicide.’
Rosalino Ortiz, Guarani Ñandeva, Brazil, 1996

I think that the words speak for themselves. If you want to learn more about it, you can take a look at the whole campaign and also read the full report.

Chatting in Inuktitut

April 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Posted in Canada, Language | Leave a comment
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Have you ever wonder how to confess your passion for pizza even if you are in Greenland? Now you can speak openly about it even eating fresh fish inside an igloo thanks to this short glossary offered by the Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada:

Hi or hello.

How are you?

My name is ________.

What’s happening?

I am from ________ .

What’s your name?

I belong to the _______ Nation.

I can speak my language

Are you learning to speak your language?

I’m going to the store.

I’ll be back soon.

I like pizza.

Cool!

No way!

‘Bye

I bet you to go there an say “no waaaay” if they ask you if you are missing your warm hometown next summer 😉

Survival International: the Innu

March 16, 2008 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Canada | Leave a comment
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After deciding to take charge of this personal project, I soon realized that it would be unfair to do it without taking into account the whole situation of indigenous Arctic people. As I has sensed, I soon confirmed that they have to face heavy adversities to maintain this way of life, and I would consider it a lack of responsibility not to write about it.

As I learned from my last entry, there is a NGO, Survival International, who works supporting tribal people worldwide. They have an excellent website, packed with tones of information. I will tell you what they say about the Arctic people, and then it is up to you to continue learning from them.

Innu

The Innu are the indigenous people of most of the Labrador-Quebec peninsula, in eastern Canada. They were formerly referred to as the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, and are unrelated to the Inuit (or ‘Eskimo’) who live further north.

How do they live? Their homeland, where they have lived for millennia, is a vast area of sub-arctic spruce and fir forest, lakes, rivers and rocky ‘barrens’. They call this land Nitassinan. Up until the second half of the 20th century, the Innu lived as nomadic hunters. For most of the year, the waterways of Nitassinan are frozen, and they would travel in small groups of two or three families on snowshoes, pulling toboggans. When the ice melted, they would travel by canoe to the coast or a large inland lake to fish, trade, and meet friends and relatives. They hunt animals including bear, beaver and porcupine, and also fish and gather berries – but most of all they rely on the herds of caribou which migrate through their land every spring and autumn. Until recently, the Innu got all that they needed – food, clothing, shelter, tools and weapons – from the caribou, which have a huge cultural significance. Today the Innu have been settled into villages; although many hunt, fish and gather, some have paid jobs as well, or depend on social security.

What problems do they face? During the 1950s and 1960s, the nomadic Innu were pressured into settling in fixed communities by the Canadian government and Catholic church. The transition was difficult and traumatic. Life in the communities is marked by extremely high levels of alcoholism, petrol-sniffing amongst children, violence, and record levels of suicides. Many of the Innu are still fighting to retain much of their traditional lifestyle, increasingly difficult as the government hands out their land in mining concessions, floods the heart of their territory for hydro power schemes, and builds roads which cut up the remainder. In April 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee described the situation of tribal peoples as ‘the most pressing issue facing Canadians’, and condemned Canada for ‘extinguishing’ aboriginal peoples’ rights.

How does Survival help? Survival is calling on the Canadian government to rethink its approach to negotiations with the Innu and other similar groups – currently they will only recognise Innu land rights if the Innu agree to surrender most of their land. Canada must recognise the Innu’s right to own their land, and live on it as they choose.

I know this is little help, but it is just the beginning. You will read more soon 🙂

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