Stoney Nakoda language being preserved through new educational resource
Preserving the Stoney Nakoda language is the purpose behind a new resource created by the Stoney Education Authority (SEA) with support from The Language Conservancy.
Already in use at four schools — two in Morley, Alta., one in the Municipal District of Bighorn and one in Eden Valley — the resource includes three picture books, a Level 1 textbook, and an alphabet colouring book, along with a 9,000-word web and mobile dictionary, a textbook-accompanying media player app, and a vocabulary-building app.
The resource was crafted over the last two years, involving about 50 elders from three area First Nations — the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley — along with support workers and linguists.
"It will help (students) with their hearing and speech as well because the recordings are of our elders," said Cherith Mark, cultural and language coordinator for the Stoney Education Authority.
"What's so great about this is it's a new way of learning language. They'll be able to converse with a language speaker."
A majority of community members over about age 30 can speak the Stoney Nakoda language, said Mark.
"I would say there is about probably 5,000 (people) in this community so there is a few thousand," she said. "There are actually quite a few people working on preserving the language, not just through SEA."
Putting together a project of this scope can be difficult, and even more so when it's done during a global pandemic.
The usual route would be to bring speakers together and record them, but things had to be done remotely.
"A lot of it was online, and some of it was in small groups, after vaccinations were happening," said Mark.
This was the first resource created by the community, but Mark says it won't be the last.
"These new resources are just the first step in a multi-year project, and the next step of resources are already being developed," she said.
"A student dictionary, a Level 2 textbook, a podcast series, and continued dictionary updates are currently in the works."
The resource will also be made available to Albertans interested in learning more about the Stoney Nakoda language and more information can be found by contacting the Stoney Education Authority.
The Language Conservancy (TLC) is a non-profit organization that supports Indigenous language revitalization by developing programs, materials, and technologies in partnership with Indigenous communities.