The Gathering Place in Regina is offering Indigenous language classes in a new way, through a weekly live streaming class on the File Hills Tribal Council’s Facebook page.
“I don’t want my grandchildren to not hear that language being spoken,” says Cory Generoux.
Generoux is the communications specialist for the File Hills Tribal Council and runs the live stream. The classes began after a successful streaming of a Treaty 4 Gathering a few years ago. After that event, Generoux thought about how he could also use live streaming to broadcast the language nights they were planning.
The classes started as a pilot project in the fall of 2016 with a Cree class. The project was successful and continued the following year with Nakoda. Lynn Cote, a professor at the First Nations University of Canada, is currently teaching Saulteaux on Monday nights.
“There’s a crowd of people live, a crowd of people watching it live,” Generoux said. “I started to notice people watching these things 10 times, five times, so we started posting materials so people can follow along.”
The classes are live streamed through the File Hills Tribal Council’s Facebook page as it has a large following, says Generoux. This year’s classes focus on the five main linguistic groups of File Hills Tribal Council: Nakoda, Saulteaux, Cree, Dakota, and Lakota.
Isabel O’Kanese lives in Victoria, BC and watches the live streams. She found them while scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed. “It made me feel very happy, I actually started crying,” O’Kanese said.
“[My parents] wanted us to act like white people and they thought they were protecting us,” O’Kanese said. “I get to learn my culture, even though I’m over on Vancouver island, not even on the mainland.”
“I have more understanding of who I am and where I am, so then it’ll help the future generations understand where they come from,” O’Kanese said. “I really hope it continues, it was such a pleasant surprise to see my culture and language taught online.”
For the livestreams, quality is important to Generoux. “When things are being recorded with a laptop or an iPad, or a tablet or a phone, yeah the video might be HD but … it gets really tough to actually watch that.”
Generoux’s setup for the classes is multiple cameras and microphones, a soundboard and a laptop to stream from.
“Our languages are in danger, the Indigenous languages. I mean, residential schools did a number on our people culturally, linguistically and if we are to retain our Indigenous identities and who we are, that exists in the language.
“In this day and age where we’re talking about reconciliation and what we’re reconciling is the genocide of our languages and culture. And that’s at the heart of everything so when we talk about reconciliation, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go to a bannock and soup event. I want to go to a language thing because that was at the heart of why the residential schools were formed in the first place. To destroy the Indian and save the man.”
Generoux says worldwide, there are less than 100 Nakoda speakers left. “That’s dangerous and according to some charts, extinct.”
“I gotta do something because if we don’t do anything, in less than a generation or two that language will … if no one is speaking it, if you’re not hearing it, it’s gonna be gone in less than two, three generations. And in some cases, one generation.”
Generoux says he saw a lot of people glued to their phones, and that’s one part of why the classes are live streamed then posted online. “These language live streams, let’s do as many as we possibly can, let’s figure out how to do as many as we can. This is my gift is to work with this technology and these cameras and put it to work.”
The classes are free to attend and posted online on the File Hills Tribal Council’s Facebook page if people cannot watch live.
“Whatever you can do, put language first,” said Generoux. “Language is life. It’s not a side project.”
To tune in to the live stream, go to the File Hills Tribal Council Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FHQTC/