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Language preservation and use among First Nations children of the Cowichan tribe in British Columbia

September 30, 2010

Helen Joe (7 years), Cowichan tribe child

by Dr. Brinda Jegatheesan

Using a naturalistic research design, this study examines the indigenous language learning experiences of the First Nations children from the Cowichan tribe in British Columbia. Participants in the study are young children ages 7–10 years old. The children are currently learning their indigenous language at home and in the community, supported by opportunities provided by their local tribal school and elders.

Data collection for this study consists of observations of everyday indigenous language use between caregiver and child at home and community. Child friendly interviews with the child examines children’s perceptions and feelings pertaining to learning and using their indigenous language. Interviews with the caregivers and elders in the community provides an in-depth understanding on their beliefs for the need for indigenous language preservation, the role these languages play in the lives of their younger and future Cowichan generation.

The above study will contribute to the strength of Canadian content in Dr. Jegatheesan’s ongoing research on ‘multilingual socialization and native language loss and retention’ among immigrant and indigenous children in the Pacific Northwest. Results from this study will also be used in Dr. Jegatheesan’s Language and Culture course in Winter 2011.

Dr. Jegatheesan is an educational anthropologist. She is multilingual in six languages. One of her main areas of scholarly work concerns multilingualism and socialization among immigrants and indigenous children in the United States. She has studied Qur’anic language learning among Muslim children with autism in the Midwest and is currently nearing completion of native language retention among East Asian children with autism in Seattle.

This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Program Enhancement Grant.