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Yamkovy on language revitalization
MA Global Leadership student Shawna Yamkovy spoke to Cabin Radio in Yellowknife about her efforts to preserve Dene sųłiné yati, the language of the Łutsël K'é Dene of the Northwest Territories.
Here’s an excerpt:
This spring, a Dëne Sųłiné Yati revitalization project is starting – headed by a researcher with deep roots in Łútsël K’é.
Shawna Yamkovy is conducting her Masters of Arts Global Leadership capstone project on the language spoken in the 314-resident settlement on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. While pandemic-related delays had her in research mode for over a year, Yamkovy will now – with the guidance of ethics committees – begin connecting with the community.
Yamkovy said she is honoured by the interest she has had from fluent speakers so far. As working with language is trauma-related, she said, her first consideration is to do no harm and to have supports in place.
“As an Indigenous researcher … I have to have the best practices and ethical standards, because I’m coming in as the grandchild,” she said.
Language regeneration is personal for Yamkovy. A Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation member, she was born and raised in Alberta and is the daughter and granddaughter of fluent speakers.
“I can speak for where my mom couldn’t, she passed away in 2001 before the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission],” Yamkovy said. “It’s a reconnection for myself … that language was important and my mom, for whatever reasons, didn’t have the opportunity – based on primarily residential school teachings – to feel that it was something that was important to pass on.”