Educational program seeks to save rare Tsuut’ina language
There are only about 30 fluent speakers of the Tsuut’ina language left, but the band is hoping to revitalize the language and pass it on to the next generation.
It’s doing that by holding regular classes and pairing up young people with Elders who speak the language, and with 70 per cent of the population under the age of 30, passing on the language is critical in passing on the band’s traditions.
“Language is connected to identity, so if you don’t know your language, you don’t have much of an identity, and that is something we have tried to do with our program is instill that pride and identity in the young people and all Tsuut’ina people,” said Steven Crowchild, language teacher.
Crowchild is from Tsuut’ina and said he was lucky that the language was spoken in his family home, but many others are not being exposed to it. The Tsuut’ina language was nearly lost due to the residential school system and diseases that drove down the population and the language.
“Our population really dwindled down to, some say 130 people, so there’s a lot of intermarriages with other tribes,” said Crowchild. “So there is a mixture of Blackfoot, Cree, and so the meeting point between the two was English, so a lot of language was not passed on in the home.”
The Elders who still speak Tsuut’ina remember how hard it was to keep the tongue alive.
“When my children were born, I never taught them Tsuut’ina because I was thinking, why should I teach them Tsuut’ina? What good is it going to do them when they grow up, because it’s a white man’s world, and today I feel sorry that I did that,” said Agnes Thomas Onespot.
Since the 1970s, the band Elders have worked to revive the language, and the classes are the main support for reaching that goal.