Next generation of Indigenous language instructors get funding boost

UAlberta-based institute to help more Indigenous language teachers enhance Indigenous language education in their communities.


A University of Alberta-run set of courses designed to breathe new life into Alberta’s nine Indigenous languages was strengthened by the provincial government today.

David Eggen, Alberta’s minister of education, was on hand to announce a $665,000 grant for the Canadian Indigenous Language and Literacy Development Institute (CILLDI) to bolster the training of Indigenous language teachers who will return to their communities to enhance K-12 language education.

All five of the courses taught under the CILLDI umbrella are part of a proposed Indigenous Languages Education Certificate being taught by Indigenous instructors over three weeks each summer.

Studies show learning and having the ability to speak an Indigenous language increases academic success for students and strengthens the connection between Indigenous people and their culture.

Billy Joe Laboucan, chief of the Lubicon Lake Band and UAlberta education alumnus, said that storytelling is the basis of traditional Indigenous education.

“Language is vital to be able to not only learn your history, but also achieve and create the basic foundation for your own identity.”

He added revitalizing Indigenous languages is key to student success and recognizing the rich culture, history and identity of Canada’s First Peoples.

“This work is an important step in addressing the historic wrongs in education and honouring the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.”

Currently, up to 30 bursaries were made available to students from the grant through subsidized tuition, with 15 additional students over the next two years to receive bursaries annually. The grant will also support the adaptation of content and development of online courses and community-based programming, leading to long-term sustainability.

“Education is the fundamental right of everyone. Education can help bring any desired change in society,” said First Rider. “The teaching methods we learn here at CILLDI are tools we can shape and form for our communities.”

In operation since 2000, CILLDI is a tri-faculty initiative through the UAlberta faculties of artseducation and native studies. In addition to the annual summer school in Edmonton, the institute partners with Indigenous communities and language activists around the world to deliver courses and workshops in communities, develop language resource materials and collaborate on a range of language documentation and revitalization efforts.

Heather Blair, professor in the Department of Elementary Education and co-founder of the institute, said the work done at rejuvenating Indigenous languages is essential for the rebuilding of the relationship between of all nations in Alberta.

“With this support we can bring participants from each of these languages here for three weeks to celebrate their languages, learn more about their languages and literacy, and learn how to teach the youth, and it is the youth that we continue to focus on.”