The Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations of Vancouver Island, BC are decolonizing indigenous education. They are integrating language, tradition, and land-based skills into their school curriculum to save their culture from the brink of extinction and offer a different future for the next generations.
There are few elders left who speak Nuu-chah-nulth, the traditional language of the First Nations peoples along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Many are survivors of the last residential school in BC, which closed in 1983. As more knowledge keepers pass on every year, the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations are fighting to keep their culture alive. “What happens when we go? What happens when we pass away?” asks an elder.
For over a thousand years, the 14 tribes that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth nations have lived in balance with nature. Now, we see them turning to land-based skills as a tool for cultural reclamation. We meet a fisherwomen, a culture & language teacher, and a totem pole carver. All three committed to passing down their knowledge.
They believe that only when the next generation is reconnected with their true identity, will their potential be realized. That education can be a part of the solution, if more space is made for indigenous ways of knowing in the classroom. “It was lost within schools, allow them to relearn within the school system,” suggests another elder.
The Nuu-chah-nulth are part of a shifting tide across Canada, who are fighting earnestly for their land, rights and sovereignty. Each community doing what they can to heal wounds from the past and reclaim what was stolen.