Saulteaux is a distinct dialect of Ojibwa and with the passage of time sub-dialects have evolved. The dialect of Saulteaux spoken in Saskatchewan has been influenced by their Cree neighbours and is unique. Further, each of the ten Saulteaux First Nations has their own unique community dialect. However, given their minority status among First Nations in Saskatchewan and the effects of colonialism, their language is in a critical state today. Only a small percentage of the total Saulteaux population can speak their language fluently and nearly all of those are over the age of 30.
The communities contend that the statistical sources used by AFN and RCAP do not reflect Saskatchewan realities. The main source used is taken from a 1990 House of Commons report "You Took My Talk: Aboriginal Literacy and Empowerment", which does not identify Saulteaux as a distinct dialect of Ojibwa. They contend that Saulteaux differs significantly from the dialect of Ojibwa spoken in eastern Canada and should be recognised as a separate and distinct dialect. Further, they question the validity of the AFN and RCAP sources.
Given the nature of language use surveys, in a general sense their validity is highly questionable. The question “do you speak your language” is open to individual interpretation. Some people may feel they can speak their language although they may only know 20 words. The same holds true for questions about “home language.” Some people may say it is their home language, based on the fact they are of Saulteaux heritage and occasionally they have visitors who know the language. Most Saulteaux people have a strong sense of Saulteaux identity and are embarrassed by the fact they are not fluent in the language. To publicly admit that one does not know their language is a real blow to the ego and one’s identity.
Points of Interest
Birds of Prey Program
SICC Elders Council
SICC Board of Governors
INdigenous languages & cultures program
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Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre
305 - 2555 Grasswood Road East
Saskatoon SK S7T 0K1