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Sit in on any Indigenous-language class across Canada, and you’ll hear many — I’d argue almost all — adult students say they are picking up their language in order to teach their children or future children.
Making sure the generations to come have what we did not seems to be one of the most urgent motivations for learning our languages. As adults, we can almost handle that we, ourselves, are not speakers. But when we think about the pain and loss that has caused in our life, we know we would never want the same thing for our little ones.
When I applied for my first Mohawk-language course, in 2017, I stated similar reasons for wanting to learn: “My mother and grandmother didn’t grow up with the language or teachings,” I wrote. “I would like to break that cycle within my family and spread that knowledge, as much as I can, to my nieces and nephews and my own children, eventually.” Although I’ve never really wanted children, I have thought that maybe I would change my mind — if only so that I could be in a position to give a child what I didn’t have growing up.