Frog Constellation, carved by Haida artist James Hart

New master's degree program established to support language revitalization

June 19, 2023

by Carmen Chin

In response to the urgent need expressed by Indigenous communities in British Columbia and the Yukon to produce advanced speakers and documentarians of their languages, SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) has established the Master of Arts in Indigenous Languages and Linguistics (INLL).

Approved in March 2022 by the Ministry of Advanced Education, the new master’s program is offered through the Department of Linguistics and the Indigenous Languages Program (INLP).

In partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations, INLL focuses entirely on training individuals who will go on to support the reclamation, revitalization, and strengthening of their Indigenous languages. This is part of the long-term goal to significantly restore Indigenous language loss resulting from the devastating history of dispossession, discrimination, (cultural) genocide and linguicide that generations of Indigenous peoples experienced and continue to experience.

In this two-year program, cohorts will be formed either focused on a specific language, or as mixed cohorts involving two or more languages. The language(s) will be chosen based on student demand and language proficiency of the incoming cohort. An instructional and student supervision team will be established for each cohort and consist of faculty members in the Department of Linguistics and INLP, with the support of Elders and advanced fluent speakers in Indigenous communities as needed.

INLL is a unique graduate level program of study, in which it prioritizes Indigenous ways of inquiry and knowledge production while situating students within a dialogue of linguistic analysis and documentation. The learning model also features Indigenous community participation in projects and provides students with mentorship by Indigenous Elders and knowledge keepers. Recognizing the need to provide flexibility to students, especially those situated in remote communities, the program delivery will comprise a combination of remote instruction in addition to face-to-face seminars at SFU’s campuses and within Indigenous communities.

Since 1993, the INLP has partnered with communities to offer courses in 18 Indigenous languages from across British Columbia and Yukon. The program first started with its certificate and diploma offerings but has since expanded to create a pathway for students to receive their post-secondary degree.

As FASS celebrates the creation of this new graduate program, the faculty acknowledges its dedicated faculty members and Indigenous community partners who have worked tirelessly to bring this idea into reality. FASS is committed to continue advancing reconciliation through improving the success rates of Indigenous students, increasing research opportunities for Indigenous scholars, and mobilizing Indigenous ways of knowing.