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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Intergenerational disjunctures in the Dene Tha First Nation of northern Alberta : adults' nostalgia and youths' 'counter-narratives' on language revitalization Boltokova, Daria


This thesis analyzes generational differences that create social and linguistic ‘disjunctures’ (Meek 2010) influencing revitalization ideologies among members of the Dene Tha First Nation of northern Alberta. Unlike many First Nations people in Canada, most Dene Tha adults still speak their language, Dene Dháh, the Dene language, fluently. Individual fluency among younger generations, however, varies as language shift to English has begun to affect the extent to which children learn and use Dene Dháh. Dene adults and Elders observe increasing disinterest among younger people in maintaining their heritage language and culture, and they often contrast these observations with their own experiences of learning about traditional customs and values. Nostalgia for the past, and romanticizing a “proper” Dene way of living and behaviour, is commonplace among older generations of the Dene Tha. I argue that, although young people are criticized for their disinterest in the Dene language and culture, their narratives, which I describe as ‘counter-narratives’ following McCarty et al. (2006), suggest deeply felt concerns about the future of their language and culture. In particular, youth are developing eclectic ways of blending traditional culture and contemporary practices that may not necessarily fit with “proper” Dene ways, as understood by Elders. Their ‘counter-narratives’ instead reveal youths’ interest in maintaining and ‘modernizing’ their own language and culture.

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