Indigenous Languages: An extinction of interwoven narratives

Written by Caren Thomas

The world is a mosaic of culture and diversity. However, there is a continuous depletion in the inclusion of indigenous languages within this mosaic. The way in which conversation revolves around indigenous languages shows us that universality continues to remain a mirage.

We need to recognise the beauty and enrichment that comes from these languages. It spreads awareness about the language, cultures and traditions. Indigenous languages inform us about a community that has been wiped from the face of the earth. Indigenous languages contain intricate threads that help weave together identities and histories. The presence of the rich cultural heritage and other vibrant expressions and traditional knowledge in the form of ancestral wisdom from these indigenous languages recognises the need to be preserved and revitalised.

Revival of what is lost helps develop identities of potential persons who belong to these communities and are unaware of the same. Society must realise that recognition and revival of indigenous languages go beyond linguistic diversity. Acknowledging these indigenous languages is a sign of recognising and respecting the presence of these otherwise unknown communities. Furthermore, it is a recognition of the rights and contributions of the people within these indigenous communities.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly indicates, particularly through Article 13, the right to languages as a right for indigenous peoples. Boosting this element among indigenous communities enhances their position in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. This will be a step closer to ending all forms of discrimination and eliminating much of the oppression and marginalisation they encounter daily. All indigenous peoples are entitled to all human rights recognised under international law. It needs to be reaffirmed that there is no discrimination regarding the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. 

Your language is a part of your identity, and eradication of this due to various circumstances, including but not limited to colonialism, forced assimilation, and the influence of other dominant languages, is a devastating blow to the overall growth of the individual and the concerned indigenous communities.

Revival of these indigenous languages is necessary for the upbringing and education of the children within these communities. This will also ensure it is in line with the rights of the child. This will also help achieve a cultural resurgence. However, there is a decline in the transmission of indigenous languages from one generation to the next generation. It may always remain a missing piece in the narrative.

How do we take this leap towards achieving universality regarding indigenous languages? As a society, we must establish worthwhile and sustainable solutions that future generations can carry out to avoid the further extinction of indigenous languages. Even though there are treaties and agreements, States must maintain a positive partnership with these indigenous peoples. Steps must be taken to encourage intergenerational transmission of Indigenous languages. This would help empower younger generations to reconnect with their ancestral background through their linguistic roots. This will ensure that these interwoven narratives will help create a leap towards universality and may flourish for years to come.

Photo by Ken Kahiri on Unsplash

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