New resource offers a starting point in the journey of Indigenous language revitalization

Informative resource offers a foundation for creating or improving educational programs at every level from preschool to post-secondary.


A new resource has been developed to support the work of Indigenous people, communities and organizations in language revitalization. The resource was presented recently by Pam McCoy Jones of SILR (right) to language advocates such as Lynda Minoose, who heads the first Denesųłįné Language and Culture Department on Cold Lake First Nations (left). (Photo credit: John Ulan)

A new resource has been developed to support the work of Indigenous people, communities and organizations in language revitalization.

Towards Indigenous Language Revitalization: An Informative Resource offers learners and communities ideas on what to consider when tailoring their own strategies for language learning and revitalization, says Pamela McCoy Jones, executive director of Supporting Indigenous Language Revitalization.

SILR, a comprehensive six-year initiative administered by the University of Alberta, developed the guide as part of its mandate to support Indigenous and community-led projects to revitalize languages for current and coming generations.

“The resource helps transform and strengthen the capacity of Indigenous-led language revitalization,” McCoy Jones says.

Seeing a path forward

Designed to be accessible for all Indigenous language advocates, educators, speakers, leaders and learners, the resource can help them “see a path forward” in their revitalization efforts, she adds.

“People don’t always see themselves in formal learning environments, so we wanted to provide an abundance of information so that anyone looking at language learning would be inspired, and able to see themselves in this resource as learners, developers and advocates.”

The guide also recognizes the richness and complexity of Indigenous languages and how they are intertwined with cultural, social and historical contexts, she notes. 

“It highlights the intricate web of relationships with diverse dialects and linguistic structures, and the oral traditions unique to each community.”

Along with that, the resource shows how the work of language revitalization requires a collective effort from communities, leaders, educators, administrators and policy workers, she adds. 

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ in this work, and there’s this broad scope of effort and investment that is necessary.”

The resource supports the work already being done by Indigenous communities and through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, relatively new Indigenous language legislation in Canada and international focus through the Indigenous languages Decade (2022-2032) to reclaim and revitalize their languages, she adds.

“It recognizes all the language champions who have come before us and reminds us to focus steadily on the importance of our work and the intended impact for future generations.”

People are coming at their language journeys from different levels, so the resource offers a mix of many different community and academic pathways.

Pamela McCoy Jones

(Photo: John Ulan)

Moving from information to action

The guide drew on Indigenous language movements and strategies already happening in communities, First Nations schools and post-secondary institutions across Canada.

The resource focuses on key areas of education, advocacy and sustainability to help make the information easily applicable “and to show how users can mobilize and move the information into action,” McCoy Jones says.

The first area of focus helps set the foundation for understanding the broad spectrum of Indigenous languages, their level of status — which can range from thriving to critically endangered — and measures of fluency. 

“We wanted people to be able to see themselves in the spectrum, say if they are early learners, and to see that there is a progression they can build on, so they can think about advancement, and how they can come to do work as fluent language instructors and speakers.”

The guide also outlines strategies for language revitalization, including forming language committees, finding partnerships and developing more certification and post-secondary training for instructors. 

“Learning and training opportunities are crucial for the success of language programs,” McCoy Jones notes. “It was a concern we heard from instructors wondering about who will take over and continue the work.”

Education is also suggested as an important consideration, including curriculum development for Indigenous language instruction, spanning early learning to Grade 12 classes, along with the importance of developing resources to support it. In addition, the guide mentions leveraging technology in forms like podcasts as a user-friendly way to learn. 

“It provides a lot of options so people can see themselves in day-to-day learning activities.”

Political advocacy is also emphasized as a way to raise awareness about the importance of revitalizing languages in sustaining Indigenous cultures and well-being, as is policy development for protecting and preserving distinct cultural history and language sovereignty.

“There are many different pieces that should be considered when thinking about strengthening language advocacy and sustainability for the work that is happening,” McCoy Jones notes. 

The resource also lays out several options for language learning, including not just early and K-12 programming, but also programs based in immersion, bilingualism, mentoring, community and culture, as well as post-secondary and continuing education. 

“People are coming at their language journeys from different levels, so the resource offers a mix of many different community and academic pathways,” such as the U of A Faculty of Education’s graduate certificate in educational studies in Indigenous language sustainability, McCoy Jones notes.

Towards Indigenous Language Revitalization: An Informative Resource is available at and ERA (Education and Research Archive), the U of A’s open-access digital archive.

The resource was also shared with more than 400 attendees from across Canada and the United States at the 2024 SILR Gathering last week highlighting the diversity of languages in Canada.

“At the 2023 SILR Gathering, we heard, ‘I’m the only one who can come, what can I take back to my community?’ We wanted to show that we are listening and being responsive,” says McCoy Jones.

“Hearing the stories and listening deeply about what’s needed is important to our team, and we then strategize to align our work to activities that will have impact.” 

This project was supported through a grant to the U of A from the BHP Foundation.