Language is considered by UNESCO to be “a vehicle of intangible cultural heritage.”
London Arts Council (LAC) acknowledges the undeniable link between a culture’s language and the expression of unique perspectives and beliefs that are conveyed through storytelling and the creation of culturally distinct and diverse artforms.
As such, LAC and City of London, Culture Services support Indigenous language revitalization efforts by working with Indigenous community members to provide translations of written descriptions associated with the Indigenous artworks created through the City of London’s Public Art and Monument Program.
“Intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.” Consequently, a loss of language results in the stripping away of cultural expression, creativity, and identity. As a result of the Residential School System that existed in Canada until 1996 which took Indigenous children away from their families and communities, and worked to strip Indigenous peoples of their cultural identity and memory, many Indigenous languages can be found listed in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger as severely endangered (the language is spoken exclusively by grandparents and older generations) or critically endangered (the language is spoken exclusively by grandparents and older generations, partially and infrequently.) “Indigenous-languages experts know that if we are to reverse the trend of language loss, then the goal is to create more fluent speakers, and support immersion programs” writes Mohawk activist, Ellen Gabriel, in her paper, “Indigenous Languages: A Fundamental Right to Defend.” In the case of endangered Indigenous languages, “first-language speakers are the Indigenous-language experts, and must be at the forefront of solutions…It is evident that in order for a language to survive, the youth and children must be speaking it, as they are the future.” For the We Are Still Here mural project, we worked with Ojibwe Language Teacher, Eli Baxter, to translate each panel description into the Ojibwe language. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with community members such as Eli Baxter, as they work to educate younger generations and keep Indigenous culture and language alive.
*This language revitalization initiative is supported by the City of London, Culture Services*
You can download a pdf of the translated panel descriptions here: