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Michif Language Background

Lawrence J. Barkwell

Li Michif mitooni katawashishin

Michif is a beautiful language
The Michif Language

• Michif is the national language of the Métis people

• Michif is an oral language
• Michif emerged in the late 1700s
• Heritage Michif
• Michif French
• Northern (Saskatchewan) Michif

Ralph Fleury, Yorkton, SK Norman Fleury, Virden, MB George Fleury, Ste. Madeleine, MB
“Many people have to learn and “When I was in my mother’s womb I “Michif is a unique way of communicating...”
experience the Michif language...” heard the Michif language because it
was essentially our first language…”
Heritage Michif
• Why must Heritage Michif be Maintained?

• Factors in the loss of the Heritage Michif language

Harriet Oaks, Saskatoon, SK Rita Flamand, Camperville, MB Grace Zoldy, Camperville, MB

“This is a gift passed down from our “I am concerned about the Michif “The younger generation has to grasp
ancestors…why should we refuse that language as there is no mention of and learn our Michif Language...”
beautiful gift now…and forget about the it anywhere, while the other
Michif language?” Aboriginal languages are being
developed and taught in schools…”
Chronology of Michif Development

• Development began in 1981 with a paper on Michif

from Buffalo Narrows, SK, compared to Michif from
Turtle Mountain, ND.
• Michif development continues to today!

Claude Langan, Saskatoon, SK Edwin St. Pierre, Yorkton, SK Dorothy Aubichon, Saskatoon, SK
“In order to preserve Michif we need “People should be interested and “I don’t want the young generation
to teach the young ones our culture, want to learn the language…” to get lost or be ashamed of who
our language, and our way of life...” they are…our language is
Additional Michif Initiatives
• Early childhood
• Childhood Education
• Adult Education
• Community-Based Michif Courses
• University and College
• Workplace
• Rituals and Celebrations

Irma Klyne, Regina, SK Gerald St. Pierre, Yorkton, SK Harvey Pelletier, Brandon, MB
“Preservation of the Michif language is “Without Michif we’d have no “We need to continue teaching
important to the preservation of our heritage…it would be a shame if we the language to preserve it for
culture and heritage…it gives one a lost it…” the future…”
sense of belonging…”
• Preserve knowledge of the language
• Transmit knowledge and use of the language to
future generations
• Train more individuals to teach Michif and develop
curriculum materials
• Linguistic research
• Protection of Métis traditional knowledge and

Laura Burnouf, La Ronge, SK Marie Schoenthal, Medicine Hat, AB Mervin Fleury, Roblin, MB
“Michif is important because that is the “It is our language…. our way of “A lot of our people still use the
language of my ancestors and community… identifying as Michif…it can’t be language…we don’t want to
I feel the need to continue with the struggle forgotten!” forget it!”
to keep it alive…”

Verna Demontigny, Brandon, MB Victoria Genaille, Binscarth, MB Rose Marie McPherson, Dauphin, MB
“Through my language I have “I am proud of my parents, grandparents, “Language gives us our identity…more
learned my culture, what and who I and great-grandparents...they are always importantly it allows us to understand our
am and my history…” in my heart...We need to preserve our culture, dance, song, and legends which
language and culture for the young needs to be told in the language to keep the
people...” significance of our culture…”