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Blood Tribe and Blackfoot Confederacy host 3-day language conference

Members of the Blackfoot Confederacy travelled across southern Alberta and Montana to attend the three-day Niitsipowahsin Language Conference, hosted at the Red Crow Community College in Stand Off.

The conference featured keynote speakers, presentations from community members, awards and more, all for the purpose of recognizing the significance of preserving the Blackfoot (Niitsipowahsin) language.

Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox, whose traditional name is Makiinima, says the language is a “keystone” to who the Blackfoot people are.

“If we ever lose our language completely, we are no longer who we claim we are,” said Fox.

Fox believes teaching the children and youth of the Blackfoot Confederacy is vital to keeping the language alive.

“We are told that the best time to know our language is when we are two or three or four years old,” said Fox.

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“We’re following that here, and it’s working.”

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Along with educating preschool-aged children, Fox said there are programs offered at the Red Crow College, and within the Blood Tribe’s school system that feature the teachings of Niitsipowahsin speakers, respected elders and spiritual guides.

These teachers help their students to not only understand the Blackfoot language, but to speak and respond as well.

Fox encourages the young members of the Blackfoot Confederacy to “not feel inferior” when it comes to learning the language of their ancestors.

“Take it as a challenge, and learn more,” Fox said, smiling.

Taking the challenge head-on is 18-year-old Doricia Healy, whose traditional name is Little Beaver Woman. The Blood Tribe youth says she’s been learning from her grandparents the basics of the language, such as prayers, commands, and introductions.

“That’s how I’ve learned the commands — they’ll tell me to get something, they’ll say it in Blackfoot,” said Healy. “Then, I’ll have to figure out what they meant by it.”

Healy presented during the conference on Tuesday and told attendees she drew inspiration to learn the Blackfoot language through traditional singing and drumming.

“I feel like now, the younger generation should start learning [the language], so we can keep carrying it on for the future generations,” said Healy.

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According to Fox, approximately 2,700 of the Blood Tribe’s 13,000 members are able to speak the Blackfoot language fluently.

The Niitsipowahsin Language Conference will come to a close on Thursday afternoon.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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