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March 31 is National Indigenous Languages Day

March 30, 2023

Trigger Warning: Mentions of colonialism and racism 

GUELPH, ON — March 31 is National Indigenous Languages Day.  National Indigenous Languages Day was first introduced in 1993 in Canada as a way to recognize, encourage and celebrate the richness and diversity of Indigenous languages across the country.

Last year, the United Nations declared 2022-2032 to be the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. It was declared in an effort to “draw global attention to the critical status of many Indigenous languages around the world and to mobilize stakeholders and resources for their preservation, revitalization and promotion.”

Colonialism has and continues to impact Indigenous languages and revitalization efforts in what is commonly referred to as Canada and throughout the world. One of the goals of the Residential School System was to assimilate Indigenous children into colonial, European culture and this included stripping Indigenous children of their languages to halt cultural transmission between generations. Today, Indigenous languages are not protected within the Official Languages Act and therefore are not adequately funded in Canada. Despite this, Indigenous communities are working diligently to revitalize their languages and create speakers. National Indigenous Languages Day is one step toward the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to preserve Indigenous languages in Canada. 

The UN’s International Decade of Indigenous Languages is also a global effort as it “aims to secure the rights of Indigenous Peoples to preserve, revitalize and promote their languages, while mainstreaming linguistic diversity and multilingualism into the UN’s broader sustainable development efforts.” 

This day and this decade are great opportunities to be both active global citizens and local community members to collaborate and stimulate a greater dialogue about the impacts of colonialism on Indigenous languages and how everyone can play a role in supporting Indigenous communities in their efforts to preserve and revitalize their languages.

Schools are encouraged to share how they are celebrating Indigenous languages on March 31 by tagging @UGDSB on Twitter with #IndigenousLanguagesDay for a chance to win books for their classrooms that support Indigenous languages. 

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