How We Speak


The Dinjii Zhu’ Ginjik (Gwich’in language) is one of the most endangered Indigenous languages in Canada. It is the most endangered Athapaskan (Dene) language in the NWT. Due to the encroachment of English into all aspects of daily life, only a small number of our elders and a few determined individuals continue to use the language on a regular basis. It is very rare to hear our children speak their language. Statistics provided in 2006 by the Government of the Northwest Territories bear witness to the seriousness of the situation. For the Gwich’in beneficiaries who are living within the NWT, only 20 people spoke the language in their home and only 275 reported they could speak the language. Around two-thirds of the people who can speak the language are over 40.

Efforts to record and revitalize the language are a vital part of the work at the GSCI although we recognize that we have a challenging task ahead of us. All GSCI research projects have a language component whether they are recording Gwich’in place names and oral history, traditional plant use, traditional knowledge, life stories or the replication of traditional material culture. The products of this research plus language dictionaries, immersion camps and language mentoring are ways in which we are working to revitalize the Gwich’in language.

GSCI has also assisted in the creation of a second-language curriculum, and partnered with the GNWT on language initiatives and language policy review.