Statement from Minister of Education Jeanie McLean on National Indigenous Languages Day

Minister of Education Jeanie McLean issued the following statement:

“National Indigenous Languages Day, observed this Sunday, March 31, underscores the critical role of Indigenous languages in preserving Indigenous cultures, knowledge and communities. This is a day for all Canadians to reflect on the deep legacy of Indigenous languages, and the interconnectivity of Indigenous languages, cultures and wellbeing.

“The impacts of colonization have pushed Indigenous languages close to extinction. Many Yukon First Nation languages teeter on the brink of silence, with only a handful of birth speakers remaining. The disruption of intergenerational language transmission poses a significant threat to cultural identity and understanding.

“In the Yukon, there are eight Yukon First Nation languages, each with multiple dialects, and they all are critically endangered, threatening ancestral wisdom and cultural identity.

“Navigating the challenges that come with revitalizing an endangered language, here in the Yukon there are dedicated individuals and organizations like the Yukon Native Language Centre and many First Nation governments and communities who are spearheading innovative programs to revive Yukon First Nation languages, culture and heritage.

“I commend the commitment of the Yukon First Nation governments, language organizations, the Yukon Native Language Centre, and the Council of Yukon First Nations for their efforts in promoting and supporting the revitalization of Yukon First Nation languages. They have kickstarted adult learning programs targeted to improve fluency through intensive language courses such as the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations language program and the Yukon Native Language Centre’s Youth Today, Language Leaders Tomorrow program. These efforts exemplify the dedication and perseverance required to nurture linguistic resurgence.

“I express gratitude to the Elders whose wisdom and guidance are fundamental to language revitalization efforts. Their invaluable contributions, spanning from language documentation to the creation of teaching materials, illuminate the path for future generations.

“However, the work is far from over. Sustained support is needed to ensure the continued growth of native speakers and new learners alike. The necessary supports must be provided for resources and space for individuals to reclaim and relearn their languages. Our government is pleased to support First Nations language programs in our schools with funding in Budget 2024–25, alongside programs to bring First Nations elders into the classroom to share their knowledge with young Yukoners.

We encourage Yukoners to join us at the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, April 2, at 1 pm as we pay tribute to this important day.

“As we commemorate National Indigenous Languages Day, let everyone not only celebrate the resilience and beauty of Yukon First Nation languages but also reaffirm a collective commitment to preserving them for generations to come.”

Quick facts 
  • Measures in Budget 2024-25 are subject to legislative approval.

Media contact 

Laura Seeley
Cabinet Communications
867-332-7627
laura.seeley@yukon.ca

News release #: 
24-156