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Reclaiming an indigenous epistemology: Indigenous language reclamation – The learners’ perspective

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Title:Reclaiming an indigenous epistemology: Indigenous language reclamation – The learners’ perspective
Authors:Sherry-Kirk, Laurie
Contributors:Sherry-Kirk, Laurie (speaker)
Date Issued:02 Mar 2013
Description:The endangered state of the world’s Indigenous languages has resulted in an emergent body of literature that approaches Indigenous languages from the perspective’s and needs of the instructors who are engaged in its recovery and preservation. Accordingly, there is little, if any studies that give voice to the learner’s experiential vantage point as s/he sets out on their own language recovery journey. This research provides insight into how the utilization of Indigenous theory can be put into practice.

Since we live in an ever changing society, universities have become the societal mechanisms that lead to the certification of our doctors, nurses, counselors and other professional occupations, which in turn directly effect Indigenous people. Therefore, the academic mechanism that informs societal vocations needs to be provided with a valid understanding of the sacred nature of Indigenous epistemologies. The study explores the link between learning an Indigenous language and the meanings Indigenous second language learners attach to their experiences in terms of cultural identity and self esteem. The study further delves into the factors that motivate, enhance and serve as barriers to individual language revitalization efforts.

Walker (2001:18)* asserts that in order to accurately reflect the true nature of Indigenous knowledge, “the interconnections between Indigenous people’s experiences of the sacred needs to inform the practical, analytical academic research process”. As such, the medicine wheel is utilized as a tool of analysis, and its teachings are used as a methodological roadmap in conducting ethical research with Indigenous people. The medicine wheels teachings also provide a theoretical lens from which to conceptualize the research findings. The goal of the research was to reassert an Indigenous worldview that is useful for Indigenous peoples as they pursue their own language reclamation journeys and was intended to communicate with Indigenous peoples in ways that are meaningful, respectful and culturally sensitive to them.

Given that, the research suggests that an important step to the reconciliation and healing of Indigenous people is to reclaim our heritage through the use of our own Indigenous knowledge systems and that contained within these systems are concepts of epistemology, philosophy, language and scientific logical validity that are specific to Indigenous ways of being in the world, the pairing of Indigenous theory with the practical community experiences of ISL’s, demonstrates how the use of Anishinaawbe people’s experiential knowledge, systems of thought and ontology lend themselves well to the critical understanding necessary to successfully recovery our own endangered languages within the context of our relationships with self, community, spirit and environment.
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections: 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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