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Researcher digs into near-extinct Mtis language

Michif once the dominant language in Alberta; now less than 600 speakers left
By: Kevin Ma
St. Albert Gazette!0"01/30313##$2/%1/sag0"01/local%
) *oste&: +e&nes&ay, Mar 13, 2013 0-:00 am
Most city resi&ents will give yo( a .(nny loo/ i. yo( say 0Boo1zh((r0 to them to&ay.
2hat3s beca(se it3s a wor& 40hello05 in Michi. 6 a lang(age spo/en by less than -00
7et yo( wo(l& have hear& it everywhere in lberta 180 years ago, says 9(&y :se/e, the
;ana&a <esearch ;hair in in&igeno(s /nowle&ge at =a/ehea& >niversity an& a St. lbert
0:t was the lang(age o. commerce an& comm(nication,0 she says, an& was important to
M?tis c(lt(re. 0B(t it is a lang(age that3s severely threatene&.0
:se/e is giving a .ree tal/ in @&monton this Ari&ay on her research into the Michi.
lang(age. =ast s(mmer, she spo/e to M?tis el&ers across the province an& recor&e& them
as they tol& stories in Michi. 6 stories she plans to post online.
Michi. is what ling(ists call a 0contact0 lang(age, :se/e says, as it emerge& when Arench%
spea/ing tra&ers ma&e contact with ;ree aboriginals early in ;ana&a3s history.
0:t3s one o. the most (niB(e lang(ages in the worl&,0 she a&&s, as it3s a combination o.
two lang(ages 6 Arench an& ;ree 6 neither o. which is &ominant. 4;ontact lang(ages
(s(ally have a &ominant tong(e.5
0:t3s neither Arench nor ;ree. :t is both,0 she sai&.
:t also ten&s to vary by region.
02he .(rther east yo( go in the *rairies, the more Arench yo( .in& in the lang(age,0 she
Some variants will .eat(re wor&s .rom @nglish, CDibwa or Mohaw/.
Most St. lbert resi&ents spo/e Michi. an& .o(r to .ive other lang(ages bac/ in the
1"00s, as most o. them were M?tis, says Sharon Morin, hea& o. aboriginal programming
at the M(s?e E?ritage M(se(m.
Michi. ten&e& to be more 0Arench0 here than elsewhere in lberta, she contin(e&, li/ely
&(e to this region3s .rancophone roots.
0:n =ac Ste nne, .or mil/, they3& say 3le crFme3 4Arench5, b(t (p in Slave =a/e, the M?tis
wo(l& say 3tohtosapoy3 4;ree5.0
Michi. also has many (niB(e wor&s that blen& Arench an& ;ree, says Gicole <osen, a
pro.essor o. mo&ern lang(ages at the >niversity o. =ethbri&ge who is &eveloping a
Michi. &ictionary.
@'amine a statement li/e 0Goohtee minih/weeyaan &iloo0 40: want to &rin/ water05, .or
e'ample, an& yo(3ll .in& traces o. the ;ree wor&s 0nHhte0 4want5 an& minih/wewin
4&rin/5, as well as the Arench wor& .or water 40&e l3ea(05.
Michi. was swampe& o(t by the big wave o. anglophones that arrive& later in ;ana&a3s
history, :se/e says. 2he resi&ential school system also p(nishe& st(&ents when they spo/e
native lang(ages li/e Michi., .(rther s(ppressing it. 2o&ay there are maybe 80 Michi.
spea/ers in lberta, none o. whom are (n&er -0.
0+hen the worl& loses a lang(age, we lose the /nowle&ge an& wis&om that3s containe&
within it,0 :se/e says. 2he M?tis have been here .or cent(ries, an& their stories may
contain in.ormation val(able .or to&ay3s environmental challenges, she a&&e&.
:se/e3s research aims to &evelop teaching reso(rces that can be (se& to sprea& Michi. to
new generations.
2he Maori in Gew Iealan& an& the :nn( in northern ;ana&a have helpe& restore their
native tong(es thro(gh 0lang(age nests,0 an immersion%base& approach to lang(age
instr(ction in which very yo(ng chil&ren interact with native spea/ers, :se/e says.
0*reschool chil&ren are the best learners o. lang(age,0 she says, so they pic/ (p the new
wor&s .ast. She hopes a similar strategy co(l& be &one with Michi..
2his is a vital part o. M?tis c(lt(re that m(st be preserve&, Morin says.
0:t3s a lang(age not even the M?tis people /now abo(t,0 she sai&.
:se/e3s tal/ is at the <eme&y ;a.? in @&monton this March 18 at 2 p.m., an& will consist
o. a brie. presentation .ollowe& by a J K . ;all Kelly =oe..elmann at $"0%L#2%288- .or
:se/e3s research can be seen at o(rel&
Dr. Judy Iseke Receives $500K for Michif Language
08 9(l 2012
8%year SSE<; :nsight !rant has been awar&e& to Mr. 9(&y :se/e, ;ana&a <esearch
;hair in :n&igeno(s Knowle&ge an& <esearch. 2hese .(n&s will s(pport the research
program entitle& N:n&igeno(s Knowle&ge an& M(sic in :n&igeno(s =ang(age:
Storytelling in @&(cationO. 2he total amo(nt o. the grant is PL"#,8#0 an& is e'pecte& to
employ between L an& 12 =a/ehea& st(&ents.
2his research program with Metis @l&ers is to help (n&erstan& :n&igeno(s /nowle&ge
systems an& Michi. lang(age in :n&igeno(s e&(cation. Some more o. :se/eQs wor/ in this
.iel& is .eat(re& on her webpage, www.o(rel&
Cne o(tp(t o. this research will be an :n&igeno(s /nowle&ge, storytelling, an& m(sic
research tool an& archive. 2he &evelopment, &esign, implementation, an& o(tp(t o. the
research is a collaborative e..ort between :se/e, :n&igeno(s gra&(ate st(&ents,
comm(nity @l&ers an& the Michi. ;(lt(ral an& <eso(rce :nstit(te 4M;<:5 in St. lbert,
Aor more in.ormation contact Mr. 9(&y :se/e, Dise/ebaRla/ehea&(.ca
;ompile& an& e&ite& by =awrence Bar/well
;oor&inator o. Metis Eeritage an& Eistory <esearch
=o(is <iel :nstit(te