As co-chairs of the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, Tammy Dorward and I had the honour of representing our biosphere reserve at the Canadian Biosphere
Commission for UNESCO meetings in Victoria, June 5 to 7. After the meetings, we hosted 24 delegates from across Canada for a weekend in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve (CSBR).
The meeting focused on the question, How can UNESCO and indigenous people work together to reconstruct, recover, and vitalize indigenous languages, wisdom, and stories?
This was very pertinent to the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust (CBT).
Our board has a joint governance model, which is unique in Canada, and includes representation from the regions five First Nations as well as the Districts of Tofino and Ucluelet and Area C of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
Through its granting program, the CBT has supported various Nuu-chahnulth language projects. Recent examples include the Tla-o-qui-aht language app and the Roots of our Ancestors digital storytelling project.
Our local efforts ultimately support provincial efforts to celebrate the rich diversity of First Nations languages.
While in Victoria, Tammy and I were privileged to attend a pre-opening of “Our Living Languages,” an exhibit at the Royal BC Museum that examines the fragility of the province’s 34 unique First Nation languages and what can be done to keep them alive.
It allowed me to glimpse the CBT’s small efforts in terms of a larger mandate.
I learned that by preserving language, we encourage the possession of thousands of years of rich traditional knowledge and intangible cultural heritage.
There is an intertwining of the language, culture, stories, and knowledge that is so rich!
On a Canadian scale, the local language initiatives fit in well with the UNESCO mandate.
The “C” in UNESCO stands for culture, and our First Nations culture needs more local advocacy.
We are proud to be partners in the linguistic work in the CSBR region.
I was inspired by the BC Museum exhibition and the work that has been done, both provincially and locally, but we have so much more to do!
Thank you to Levi Martin, Joe Martin, Eli Enns, Jim Darling, Terry Dorward and Tammy Dorward for sharing your knowledge, language, and your stories this past weekend. You are beginning to answer the question well for me. I hope others will join in the dialogue!
Cathy Thicke is a co-chair of the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, and a District of Tofino councillor.