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NWT launches Indigenous languages curriculum

Deh Gah School in Fort Providence
Deh Gah School in Fort Providence. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The NWT government has launched an Indigenous languages curriculum designed to address a significant gap in the territory’s education system.

The curriculum, named Our Languages, runs from junior kindergarten to Grade 12 and aims to ensure “Indigenous languages are heard and spoken throughout schools, at assemblies, and in all Northwest Territories classrooms,” the GNWT said on Friday.

Earlier this year, Canada’s auditor general said Indigenous language and cultural education had been slow to improve in the NWT.

“The need for swift action in this area is increasingly critical because knowledge of Indigenous languages is declining,” said Glenn Wheeler, who led the audit.



That audit in part prompted the Dene Nation to hold an education summit designed to address perceived flaws in the NWT’s education system.

The territorial government, meanwhile, has said for months that the Our Languages curriculum and two related pilot programs would help to increase both the number of Indigenous-language instructors available, and the quality of teaching.

On Friday, the territory set out how the curriculum will work.

“The curriculum is not based on grades but rather focuses on students’ attainment of five language learning levels – Emergent, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Capable – by the end of Grade 12,” the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said in a news release.



Sections of the curriculum introduce strategies like language play, use of language in technology, language in the community, and connecting with Elders – then explain how those can look in the classroom.

Teachers will receive ongoing training and in-class support where possible, the department said.

The territorial government said Elders, teachers, neurolinguistic experts, and community advocates were among those contributing to the curriculum’s creation.

It is designed to sit alongside two existing NWT curricula – Dene Kede and Innuqatigiit.

According to the NWT government, 42 of the territory’s 49 schools currently offer Indigenous-language programming.

Four schools – in Fort Providence, Behchokǫ̀, Tulita, and Délı̨ne – offer Indigenous immersion programming in at least junior kindergarten and kindergarten.

“This new curriculum is built on the premise that our languages can survive and will thrive when schools and communities join together to make language learning a priority,” said RJ Simpson, the education minister, in Friday’s news release.

“Through our shared commitment to language revitalization we will realize our vision of a territory where Indigenous languages are thriving, supported and respected.”