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NLC and Doig River First Nation host the region’s first language symposium

Doig River First Nation Chief Trevor Makadahay speaks at the language symposium

What started as an idea floating around a kitchen table led to two days of dedicated learning and building connections with Indigenous communities and organizations. Drawing over 250 avid attendees, the Reawakening our Language Gathering demonstrated the urgency to revitalize local Indigenous languages in Northeastern BC.

Women at the symposium dance the Tea Dance.

Amongst those in attendance were Chiefs, council members, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers intent on sharing and learning how to best do this vital cultural work. Northern lights College (NLC) partnered with Doig River First Nation’s Culture, Heritage, and Language department to support the initiative, with the hopes of creating an annual event in Treaty Eight territory.

Hosted March 14 and 15, 2024, the Gathering welcomed Christopher Parkin of the Salish School of Spokane, Glenn Jim and Maggie-Mae Adams of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, as well as other local speakers, such as Doig River First Nation Information Technology Manager Thomas Whitton, Traditional Knowledge Keeper Gary Oker, and Traditional Knowledge Keeper Della Owens to name a few. The event featured learning opportunities through workshops, keynote sessions, discussions, and other cultural activities with the goal of revitalizing and preserving local Indigenous language.

“This is a lifelong task for our current generations. If we hope to help revitalize the ancestral languages of this area, it will take a lifetime of intention by those working on it today. This event was meant to inspire that intention, and I believe it did,” said Mike Calvert, NLC Director of Indigenous Education.

An Indigenous man speaks at the First Nations Language symposium.

Workshops included traditional storytelling, youth engagement, and discussions on what the future of Indigenous heritage can look like. The sessions and workshops also emphasized the need to bridge the gap between Elders and youth to ensure knowledge is shared between generations.

“I’m grateful for those who came to take part in this work, I’m also grateful for those who had a hand in creating and hosting the event. All of that said, my most sincere gratitude is for the nature of how this event came to be — how it originated around a kitchen table while sharing food…it was an idea that grew beyond our vision and grew to contain such good spirit. I believe that is because of how it was born and how it was nurtured,” said Mike.