Native language hangs on in schools |

Native language hangs on in schools

Allen Best
Vail, CO Colorado

CANMORE, Alberta ” Only three of the 50 languages once spoken by aboriginals in Canada are expected to survive into the future.

Those languages ” Inuktitut, Cree and Chippewa ” each have more than 20,000 speakers.

Some languages are already gone. Others have just a few hundred speakers and are likely headed to extinction. The language of the Stoney-Nakoda, who live at the foot of the Canadian Rockies between Calgary and Banff, remains in doubt.

About 4,000 of the Stoneys remain, although even many of them do not speak their native language, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

The language suffered after the signing of a treaty in 1877. Children were then put into schools and encouraged to forsake their language and culture.

In time, this thinking that pressured the Indians to melt into the mainstream slowed a bit, and in the 1970s the Stoney-Nakoda language became written.

Now, schools teach the language. But teaching the language, notes the Outlook, is only part of the equation. Like anything, it has to be relevant.

As a result, the school at Morley, where the reservation is located, now has a strong cultural component in its curriculum. In these classes, students learn about their own culture and their history along with skills that will allow graduates to get jobs or to receive further collegiate training.

Preserving their language is also a celebration of their culture and an affirmation that they are survivors, says the Outlook: “They are not, as once believed, mere charges of the government, but instead, in control of their future and their identity.”

Even so, survival of the language is iffy. Popular culture and mainstream media are in English.

WHISTLER, B.C. ” Glen Plake, the Mohawked One, wasn’t the only skier denied permission to enter Canada. Filmmaker Greg Stump was detained at the border in December because of a couple of long-ago charges ” not convictions, just charges.

Stump is widely credited with redefining ski filmmaking with his 1988 “Blizzard of Aahhh’s.” But while nearly 20 years old, the film somehow still “resonates with an energy and sense of humour and realness that today’s ski filmmakers have yet to match,” says Michel Beaudry, a columnist in Whistler’s Pique.

But his other films, among them “License to Thrill” and “Time Waits for Snowman,” also have it ” “that signature joie-de-vivre that separates great storytelling from mere reporting,” adds Beaudry.

Beaudry caught up with Stump in Hawaii, where Stump has been idle this past winter, recovering from a knee injury. Stump was readying to visit Robert De Niro’s film festival at New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood to premier a movie called “Steep,” a highly anticipated documentary about the history of big-mountain skiing.

The late Peter Jennings was involved in the movie, as were Plake, Scot Schmidt and Mike Hattrup.

Beaudry reports Stump is now collecting money for another film, to be called “The Legend of Aahhh’s.” With this new film, he vows to “tell them a great story. Show them the madness and the fun and the sheer magic of it all.”

What’s his trick to making good films? Stump doesn’t say exactly, but he does say why he lost patience with ski movies a long time ago.

“They’re so boring,” he says, amid giggles. “They’re like bad lovers. No variation. No teasing. You’re numbed throughout. And then there’s barely a climax at the end.”

WHISTLER, B.C. ” The Resort Collaborative, which includes more than a dozen resorts in British Columbia, was scheduled to meet in Whistler.

The group was formed at the request of Premier Gordon Campbell in 2002, and is a response to the push by the provincial government to double tourism by 2015.

Already, the collaborative was at least partially responsible for giving resort municipalities a larger percentage of the provincial hotel tax collections, which they believe is deserved due to the special demands put upon resort communities by populations that double and sometimes triple. The group is also delving into affordability and affordable housing.

Joining the Resort Collaborative members are representatives from Nelson, Smithers, and Vernon and ” from Alberta ” Banff and Canmore.

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