UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

îkakwiy nîhiyawiyân : I am learning [to be] Cree McIvor, Onowa


Indigenous languages are at risk of extinction all over the world. While revitalization approaches range from documentation, to early childhood immersion, to school-based approaches, to adult and community language classes, approaches focused on adult Indigenous language learners are sparse. Many Indigenous adults did not have an opportunity to learn their ancestral language due to geographic dislocation from home territory, adoption, migration, urbanization, or discontinued language use between generations. While many of these adults are determined to regain this part of their heritage, very few cases have been documented. This study begins to fill this knowledge gap through its contribution of an autoethnographic account of the author’s language learning journey with nîhiyawîwin (the Cree language) over more than ten years. The journey was documented through journal writing and other language learning records, which were used to create the autoethnography. The primary aim of this study was to examine the motivations, processes, effects, and outcomes of the author’s journey into urban nîhiyawîwin learning. While the autoethnographic approach focuses on only one story, this research contributes to a broader understanding of adult Indigenous language loss and recovery in Canada. This dissertation contributes to the creation of new knowledge in four distinct ways: it adds to the largely untold story of urban adult Indigenous language learning in Canada; it expands the foci of the Indigenous language revitalization movement to include Indigenous adult learners; it aligns Indigenous language revitalization efforts with the decolonization movement; and it provides the opportunity to inform second-language researchers and practitioners about adult Indigenous language learning. Several implications arise from this research, including justification for Indigenous language learning as a new academic field of study, and policy recommendations are made pertaining to funding and legislation.

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