New university course teaches Stoney Nakoda language
Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 06:00 am
A new course through the University of Calgary will help strengthen the language of the Stoney Nakoda people and revive the dream one Nation member had with his late sister
“From a personal perspective, being able to advance the language and the cause at a different level is really important to me,” said Trent Fox, who co-teaches the program.
“My sister, Kim Fox, taught the language at the Morley community school for years and she passed away just as I started my PhD program, so I am continuing work on what we wanted to do together.”
The new course, Indigenous Language 205 – Stoney Nakoda, debuted on Jan.11 with the first class starting at capacity.
“It’s just awful and obviously a problem that it’s never been offered before,” commented Darin Flynn, chair of the Division of Linguistics at the University of Calgary, and one of the spearheads behind the course.
“It is a vibrant community and a lot of people speak the language including a lot of young people, so it’s not a dying language by any means.”
The official course description states that the class will be an introduction to the language spoken by the Stoney (Îyârhe Nakoda) people of southern Alberta, while balancing an overview of the history, culture and value system of the Îyârhe Nakoda.
“We are doing a new approach to language learning, if they want to learn about our language, they should also learn about our people and the colonization process – they need to know our reality,” Fox explained.
Flynn said he was surprised to find out the majority of students in the class were non-indigenous and credits that to the “wide interest” and raised awareness of First Nation issues.
“What people don’t know is how different these languages are. Stoney Nakoda belongs to the large Îyârhe family and is extremely different from Blackfoot,” Flynn said.
“Morley also has several dialects but the course will be teaching the representative of the Morley dialect.”
Formerly Native Languages, the University also offers two other Indigenous Language courses including Blackfoot and Cree.
“We are very excited and I am quite honoured to be asked to teach this,” Fox said.
Sherri Smithson, student of the course, said she thinks it is important for post-secondary institutions to be teaching a variety of indigenous languages.
“It is really interesting to hear a different language and different ideas and values behind that language,” Smithson said.
“It is important for this class to be offered – there are over 60 indigenous languages across Canada, when you talk about the Prairie all people know is Blackfoot and Cree but there is a lot more and it is good they are offering, to find out really where Canadian culture comes from.”
Fox and other co-instructor Warren Harbeck, PhD, who both pen regular columns for the Cochrane Eagle, are teaching the Wednesday evening class.
Flynn explained that the new course will have a good balance as Fox is involved in the Stoney Nakoda community and currently working on his PhD in Education, while Harbeck has the educated linguist aspect.
“The class is off to a great start and I’m sure we’ll be able to offer it in the future – this is something long overdue,” Flynn said.
For more information on the course go to ucalgary.ca.