4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation | SIL International

(March 2015) “Enriching theory, practice, and application” was the theme of the 4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC4). The 26 February-1 March event was hosted by the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. With an attendance of nearly 450, this year’s meeting was the largest to date.

Bill Jancewicz’s poster communicates findings about grammatical awareness and adult literacy in the Naskapi community of Canada.

The conference organizers’ goal was to move beyond theory to practical application that will benefit the communities who speak endangered languages. The event was designed to strengthen the links between language documentation (practice), deep understanding of grammatical structure (theory), and methods for teaching endangered languages (pedagogy).

Several SIL linguists were among those who presented research throughpapers and poster sessions.

  • Jim Ellis: “Bridging the gap between linguistic resources and meaningful written material”
  • Bill Jancewicz: “Developing Naskapi grammatical awareness and its effect on adult literacy”
  • Melinda Lyons with William P. Rivers of JNCL-NCLIS*: “Documenting languages not included in the ISO language codes: The role of language documentation specialists in improving a request to code an uncoded language”
  • Becky Paterson: “Contribution of women to linguistic vitality in northwestern Nigeria” and “Gamification of Rapid Word Collection”
  • Hugh Paterson: “Assessing the difficulty of the text input task for minority languages” and “Lexical dataset archiving: An assessment of practice”
  • Kathleen Sackett: “Workshop design for developing picture dictionaries in the Caucasus”

SIL’s SayMore software was presented by Sarah Moeller of the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL) with a presentation entitled, “Developments in SayMore: The language documentation tool for citizen scientists.” The session was attended by people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines—linguists, mother-tongue speakers of endangered languages, archivists and software developers were all part of the standing-room-only crowd that gathered to learn more about the software. Moeller has observed that while the methods of language documentation are not difficult to learn, some technical aspects deter people from becoming involved in documenting their languages. File management, dealing with metadata and intimidating archiving processes are among the challenges faced by would-be documenters. Moeller sees great promise in SayMore as a tool for meeting the technical needs of documentation in a user-friendly way.

* Joint National Committee for Languages & National Council for Languages and International Studies

First Cry ceremony takes root in Eeyou Istchee, Northern Quebec – Aboriginal – CBC

Matthew Iserhoff, Legend's father, is passionate about bringing back traditional ceremonies, and learning new ones.

Matthew Iserhoff, Legend’s father, is passionate about bringing back traditional ceremonies, and learning new ones. (Mukash family)

A newborn girl, named Legend, is passed from one person to the next, each one telling her what they will do for her in their lifetime.

This is part of the First Cry ceremony,  welcoming newborns to the earth in the presence of the parents’ most trusted family and friends.

Danielle Mukash carries the ceremony, and Legend is her granddaughter. Danielle says it is normal that the baby cry, because she is saying goodbye to heaven for awhile.

“The First Cry ceremony has been done for thousands of years, and the reason why we do this ceremony is that a child that comes into the world is totally pure, but still connected to heaven … We have to honour their arrival to this world,” ” says Mukash.

Mukash grew in Odanak, an Abenaki community on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. That’s where the First Cry ceremony was passed on to her by her grandmother, Lillian Pitawanakwat.

Residential schools and church leaders in some aboriginal communities banned traditional ceremonies,  and many were forgotten over the past century. But through dreams and visions they are slowly making their way back into Cree culture, says Mukash.

First Cry Story

Danielle Mukash holds her granddaughter Legend. In the First Cry ceremony, the newborn is passed from one person to the next, each one telling her what they will do for her in their lifetime. (Mukash Family )

“It had been forgotten for a long time. I know from experience that ceremonies come back to us when we need them, and they come from the Creator for all of us.”

Mukash married a Cree man from Whapmagoostui, the northern-most Cree community on the Hudson Bay coast.

When their grandchildren were born, Danielle began to perform the First Cry ceremony and since then more and more Cree people have shown an interest in the tradition. Danielle believes the ceremony may have been practised by the Cree people in the distant past but there is no way of confirming that.

Legend’s ceremony is only the third time in recent history that First Cry has been performed in the Cree communities of Northern Quebec.

Matthew Iserhoff is Legend’s father and has taken part in other Cree ceremonies such as the Sundance. He’s passionate about bringing back traditions, and learning new ones.

“The Cree word for child, wash, comes from the word awashthahch, or light. The child comes from a place of light, the home of the Creator, to come to theeEarth.”

Like her son-in-law, Danielle Mukash works to keep the traditions alive.

“All my life, my dad would tell us stories about ceremonies”, she says. “It was so close to my heart, wanting to preserve all the beautiful things the Creator gave us for thousands of years.”

Danielle Mukash says she hopes that more people in Eeyou Istchee, the Cree territory in Northern Quebec,  will adopt this powerful ceremony.

And she is open to performing First Cry for other families in her community.

Basketball tournament in remote Quebec community a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience – Montreal – CBC News

The Jimmy Sandy Memorial School boys’ Hawks won a banner during the annual Central Quebec School Board tournament. The team faced off against the team from McLean Memorial School in Chibougamau.<br />

The Jimmy Sandy Memorial School boys’ Hawks won a banner during the annual Central Quebec School Board tournament. The team faced off against the team from McLean Memorial School in Chibougamau. (Submitted by Shannon Uniam)

In between basketball games at the Central Quebec School Board tournament this weekend, Christian Thibault and his teammates were introduced to traditions that have served the Naskapi for generations.

The tournament, the first of its kind ever held in the northern Quebec First Nations community, aimed to knit together two worlds through sport and tradition.

High school students from across central Quebec took part in workshops that included caribou skinning and butchering, ptarmigan plucking and ice fishing.

“I’m taking full of advantage since I’ve never done this and I’ll probably never do it again,” Thibault, a Secondary 4 student, said while plucking snow-white ptarmigan with two Naskapi women.

The tournament was held at the board’s northernmost school, Jimmy Sandy Memorial School, in the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach, located near the Labrador border, about 15 kilometres from Schefferville.

Students said they left Schefferville with a better understanding of First Nations communities and the Naskapi culture after the “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

Girls team hawks Jimmy Sandy Memorial School

The Jimmy Sandy Memorial School girls’ Hawks face off against a team from Three Rivers Academy. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

Some admitted they arrived in the community with cliché ideas about aboriginal people.

“[I had heard] that people are lazy. And they are not. I just saw firsthand at the game they all try really hard,” 16-year-old Cédrick Perreault said.

He plans to return to Kawawchikamach next summer with two classmates to learn more about the Naskapi ways.

Hoop dream to reality

Hosting the tournament in Kawawchikamach was the brainchild of the former principal of Jimmy Sandy Memorial, Curtis Tootoosis. He had been dreaming about it for a decade but only managed to sell the school board on the idea last year.

It cost about $190,000 to host the tournament. The money came from school surpluses, Ministry of Education grants for cultural exchanges, a gift from the Naskpi Band Council and donations.

Much of the organization fell into the hands of the former vice-principal, Joanne Strasser, who took over Tootoosis position as principal in January.

Basketball CQSB tournament ice fishing

A group of students try their hand at ice fishing in between games at the weekend basketball tournament. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

“I think they finally see us more than the school from the north with the First Nations kids,” she said.

“They see us as everyday kids but they have a better perspective of where we are coming from and the difficulties and the lifestyle that we lead.”

Community pride

Students from Jimmy Sandy Memorial have always had to travel outside of the community to participate in tournaments, so their parents and friends never have the opportunity to see them play.

During local games at this weekend’s tournament, the spectator side of the gym was so full, some fans’ feet were on the court.

Caribou skinning basketball tournament first nations

Between games, students took part in cultural activities that included learning to skin a caribou. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

Naomi Einish took the day off work to watch her daughter play for the Jimmy Sandy Memorial Hawks.

“I’m proud of her, win or lose she’s a winner to me,” she said.

Her daughter, Secondary 1 student Ruby-Jade Jake, said being able to play in front of friends and family made her “feel proud. For once.”

That comment brought tears to the eyes of several teachers and staff members.

The tournament may have been driven by competition, but being able to play in front of loved ones was definitely exciting for the young players, said coach Cory Meehan.

“That’s the cherry on top of this whole basketball cake,” she said.

‘Everyone is ecstatic’

The boys’ team from Jimmy Sandy Memorial ​won a banner in the B-division of the tournament.

“I think you can tell on everybody’s faces in the crowd or on my team that everyone is ecstatic,” said coach Kyle Schroeder.

Shane Peastitute,15, was all smiles as he carried his seven-month-old daughter on the court after the game.

“I feel great! I’m happy she’s here to watch me play,” he said.

Peastitute won the most valuable player award on his team.

Strasser said all the planning and preparation paid off and the weekend was a great success.

The principal said she hopes the tournament comes back to her community one day.

“But not next year,” she added.

Shane Peastitute Hawks’ MVP basketball tournament CQSB

Shane Peastitute, the Hawks’ MVP, proudly carried his seven-month-old daughter out onto the court after winning a banner for his school. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

Naskapi Dictionary Restored

A couple months ago, the National Archives of Canada, who were hosting the Naskapi Lexicon, made a bunch of changes to their servers and were no longer able to support the Lexicon.

The Naskapi Lexicon is an online version of the Naskapi Dictionary that Marguerite McKenzie and Bill Jancewicz put together, so to have it go offline is a big deal, because this is where most Naskapi look up spelling and pronunciation of words.

Fortunately, Carleton University (who also host the Cree and Innu Lexicons) agreed to do a Naskapi version as well. The new Lexicon has much better search functions. It is still in Beta (which means they’re still working on it) but you can try it out. It is being worked on by Bill Jancewicz, as a member of the “Algonquian Dictionaries Working Group”.

You can find it by clicking on this link: http://naskapi.atlas-ling.ca/

In the future, it will also include an option to submit new words as well!

Body recovered near Natuashish in Labrador is missing teen: Innu chief

NATUASHISH, N.L. – A body recovered on sea ice along Labrador’s remote northern coast is that of James Poker, a teenaged boy reported missing 10 days ago, an Innu leader confirmed Thursday.

Family members identified the 17-year-old as his body was recovered Wednesday about 30 kilometres from Natuashish, the community formerly known as Davis Inlet, Chief Gregory Rich said in an interview.

Rich said residents are mourning the death of a sweet, kind young man.

“If you met him on the road, he would give you a thumb’s up and wave at you. Usually he called me Mr. Chief,” Rich said. “‘How are you, Mr. Chief?’ he says to me, with a big smile on his face.”

RCMP Cpl. Rick Mills said the body was being flown to St. John’s for an autopsy as early as Friday morning.

The crew of an aircraft flying near Davis Inlet on Wednesday spotted what appeared to be a body on the ice and notified police.

Poker was reported missing from Natuashish on Feb. 16. Searchers scoured the region by air and on the ground for any sign of him, with no luck.

Rich said Poker was on foot and it’s not known why he wound up so far from the community.

The boy’s father, Thomas Poker, said in an interview that his son went to live with relatives as a baby after he and the child’s mother broke up.

He said James later spent six years in foster care in Ontario until he was 16.

Thomas Poker said he tried to welcome James but his son didn’t feel at home after so many years away. He often preferred to stay at the local youth shelter.

He said his son had recently struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues and was hearing voices, but there are few support services nearby.

He said James twice visited Hopedale, about 80 kilometres south down the coast from Natuashish, by boat in September and November.

His son’s friends have mentioned that he talked of walking to the community, that maybe he wanted to see someone there and tried to make it on foot.

Chief Rich said Poker would drop by his office sometimes to chat.

“Our main talk was to further his education and find something to do after he graduated,” Rich recalled. “He visited a lot of people in the community and that’s how people got to love him.”

He said Poker loved hanging out with friends, joking around and listening to music. He’d often see him at the recreation centre in the small community of about 900 people.

Ruby Rich said her young cousin will always be in her heart. James would often drop by her house for a laugh and a meal, she said from Natuashish.

She said he’d always tell her: “I’ll see you later, okay?”

Chief Rich said he’s satisfied the search for the boy, though at times hampered by winter weather, was thorough.

Dan Crummell blames Hunting for Red Wine Caribou decline | Perfect Science


Dan Crummell blames Hunting for Red Wine Caribou decline

Only 20 are currently estimated to be present in the herd located in central Labrador to the north of the Churchill River. It is the area known as the Red Wine subpopulation. The reduction in the numbers of the animals has been recorded from 97 identified in a 2001 survey of an area north and south of the river to mere 20 now.

Innu from Quebec and Labrador drew flak for hunting five and six years ago as it covered areas known to be occupied by caribou from the Red Wine herd.

The larger George River herd was the actual target of the hunt, but officials strongly believed that it also resulted into killings of Red Wine caribou.

Crummell said hunting seems to be one of the primary factors for the population decline. He added that hunting of the animal is currently banned and efforts are being continuously made to ensure prevention of the herd from extinction.

Crummell said that they are optimistic with regards to comeback of the herd to a sustainable level. “We have notified Nalcor Energy to revise their activities in this area to minimize all disturbances to the remaining animals, including avoiding and limiting project activities during sensitive time periods and more monitoring will be conducted”, said Crummell.

Caribou numbers are declining all around the world and the Red Wine herd is one of 57 in Canada designated as threatened. Besides hunting, other reasons like predation, range deterioration and low survival rates, were also blamed by Crummell for the decline in the population of the animal.

Supreme Court won’t hear Quebec Innu case against Labrador power project – Montreal – CBC News

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a Quebec native group’s appeal against the Lower Churchill hydro project in Labrador.

The Conseil des Innus de Ekuanitshit oppose a plan by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, now Nalcor Energy, to build two power plants on the Churchill River at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls.

The Innu of Ekuanitshit, who live at the mouth of the La Romaine River in Quebec, hunt for caribou in the area where the power plants will be.

The project was approved after a provincial and a federal environmental assessment by a joint review panel, which also recommended a series of mitigation measures.

The panel said the impact on Quebec aboriginal land and resource uses after the mitigation efforts would be adverse, but not significant and that the benefits would outweigh the environmental and economic impacts.

The federal cabinet approved the project in 2012, again stipulating certain environmental mitigation measures, and the Innu sued, losing at both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.

As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for refusing to hear the case.