Transcript: Reconnecting Through Language | Nov 27, 2020

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and floral print tie.

A caption on screen reads "Reconnecting through language. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says FOR OVER A CENTURY, INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES WERE NOT SIMPLY MARGINALIZED, THEY WERE ACTIVELY SUPPRESSED. THAT IS CHANGING. WITH US NOW FOR MORE: SHELBY LISK. SHE IS OUR ONTARIO HUBS JOURNALIST COVERING INDIGENOUS ISSUES, AND SHE JOINS US FROM OTTAWA. WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

Shelby says HI, JEYAN.

Jeyan says SO YOUR LATEST FOR TVO.org LOOKS AT THREE FAMILIES LEARNING THREE DIFFERENT INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES TO RECONNECT WITH THEIR CULTURE. TELL US, WHY DID YOU WANT TO WRITE THIS SERIES?

The caption changes to "Shelby Lisk. Ontario Hubs Journalist Covering Indigenous Stories."
Then, it changes again to "A personal connection."

Shelby says YEAH. SO ACTUALLY ONE YEAR AGO, TVO STARTED THE INITIATIVE TO TRANSLATE AS MANY ARTICLES AS WE CAN FROM THE INDIGENOUS HUB INTO INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES. SO I'M WRITING A STORY ABOUT A COMMUNITY, WE TRY TO TRANSLATE IT INTO THE LANGUAGE FROM THAT COMMUNITY. RIGHT NOW WE HAVE TRANSLATORS FOR OJIBWE, MOHAWK, LUNAAPE, A COUPLE OF DIALECTS OF CREE AND ALSO FOR ONEIDA SIGN LANGUAGE, WHICH YOU'LL SEE IN THIS STORY. THIS PROJECT IS SPECIAL TO ME BECAUSE THE VERY FIRST ARTICLE I WROTE FOR TVO IS THE VERY FIRST ARTICLE THEY TRANSLATED FOR THIS WAS INTO MY LANGUAGE, WHICH IS MOHAWK. THAT WAS AMAZING FOR ME WHEN I FIRST STARTED WORKING HERE. WE KNOW FOR THE FIRST YEAR, WE WANTED TO DO SOMETHING SPECIAL AND I HAD THIS IDEA IN THE BACK OF MY HEAD HOW WE PASS LANGUAGES THROUGH GENERATIONS AND WHO TAKES ON THAT ROLE. SO I REALLY WANTED TO EXPLORE THAT WITH THESE THREE FAMILIES I INTERVIEWED.

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Indigenous. 'For our children': How families are passing down Indigenous languages. By Shelby Lisk."

Jeyan says I WANT TO TALK ABOUT ONE OF THE FAMILIES. KAREN MOSKO SPEAKS LUNAAPE. WHAT DID HER STORY TEACH YOU ABOUT THE ROLE THAT FAMILIES HAVE IN PASSING DOWN LANGUAGE?

A picture shows a woman smiling in the forefront as a family of nine poses in the background on a house porch.

Shelby says YES. I REALLY CONNECTED WITH KAREN BECAUSE SHE IS ALSO... I'M AN AUNTIE. I DON'T HAVE ANY CHILDREN OF MY OWN. AND SHE KIND OF HAS THE SAME STORY. SO WE REALLY CONNECTED... IN MOHAWK, THERE'S NO WORD TO DIFFERENTIATE MOM FROM AUNT, AND IN LUNAAPE, THEY HAVE A SIMILAR WORD. THEY CALL THEIR AUNTS THEIR LITTLE MOM. SO THAT'S THE ROLE SHE REALLY TAKES ON WITHIN HER FAMILY.

Another picture shows a young woman, an elderly woman and two young girls smiling.

Shelby continues AND WHEN SHE WAS TALKING TO ME ABOUT WHAT FAMILY MEANT TO HER, SHE REALLY TALKED ABOUT IT BEING COMMUNITY. AND WHEN SHE WAS GROWING UP, HER PARENTS ALWAYS TOOK IN LOTS OF FOSTER CHILDREN, PEOPLE FROM THE COMMUNITY, KIDS FROM THE COMMUNITY WERE ALWAYS STAYING WITH THEM, AND SHE SAID THAT THEY ALWAYS HAD ENOUGH CHILDREN IN THEIR HOUSE TO HAVE TWO BASEBALL TEAMS TO PLAY AGAINST EACH OTHER. SO THAT'S WHAT SHE REMEMBERS GROWING UP. SHE HAS REALLY TAKEN ON THAT ROLE WITHIN HER FAMILY AND WITHIN HER COMMUNITY AS WELL. ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS SHE REALLY EMPHASIZED TO ME ABOUT FAMILY THAT I THOUGHT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT IS SHE TEACHES IN HER COMMUNITY AND SHE DOESN'T SEPARATE ADULTS AND CHILDREN IN HER CLASSES BECAUSE SHE SAYS THAT'S NOT HOW WE NATURALLY WOULD HAVE LEARNED LANGUAGES. WE ALWAYS WOULD HAVE BEEN ALL TOGETHER, WHICH I THINK IS REALLY BEAUTIFUL.

Jeyan says I WANT TO SPEAK ABOUT ANOTHER FAMILY, ONE FAMILY THAT IS EXPANDING, SIGN LANGUAGE FOR THE ONEIDA NATION. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE IRELAND FAMILY?

The caption changes to "Oneida sign language."

A picture shows three women of different ages standing in a line, in profile.

Shelby says YES. SO THE IRELANDS, THEY'RE FROM THE ONEIDA NATION, THE THAMES COMMUNITY NEAR LONDON, ONTARIO, AND MAX AND MARSHA IRELAND, THEY'RE ADORABLE. THEY'VE BEEN TOGETHER FOR 40 YEARS. AND MARSHA WAS BORN DEAF AND SHE... YOU KNOW, SHE STRUGGLED A LOT BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T REALLY FEEL LIKE SHE FIT INTO THE DEAF COMMUNITY. SHE DESCRIBED IT AS BEING A VERY WHITE COMMUNITY WHERE SHE DIDN'T FEEL LIKE SHE FIT IN AS AN INDIGENOUS PERSON. AND AT THE SAME TIME SHE ALSO FELT DISCONNECTED FROM THE ONEIDA COMMUNITY BECAUSE SHE WOULD BRING INTERPRETERS FOR ASL FOR COMMUNITY EVENTS, BUT AS SOON AS A SPEAKER STARTED SPEAKING IN THE ONEIDA LANGUAGE, THE TRANSLATORS HAD TO STOP. THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON. SO THAT WAS CUTTING HER OFF FROM HER COMMUNITY. THEY ALSO HAVE FIVE CHILDREN, ALL OF WHOM ARE DEAF, AND THEY HAVE EIGHT OF THEIR TWELVE GRANDCHILDREN ARE ALSO DEAF, AND THEY JUST HAD A GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER WHO WAS BORN, ALSO DEAF. SO THEY HAVE FOUR GENERATIONS OF DEAF PEOPLE WITHIN THEIR FAMILY. AND THAT ALSO PUSHED MARSHA, WATCHING HER CHILDREN GROWING UP AND THEY WOULD WATCH ELDERS TELLING STORIES IN THE COMMUNITY BUT THEY COULDN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING. AND SO ALL OF THESE THINGS REALLY PUSHED MARSHA TO CREATE THIS ONEIDA SIGN LANGUAGE.

Jeyan says I ACTUALLY WANT TO SHOW A SHORT CLIP OF MARSHA TEACHING ONEIDA SIGN LANGUAGE. I DO WANT TO LET OUR VIEWERS WHO ARE JOINING US ON PODCAST THAT THERE IS NO SOUND TO THIS VIDEO. SHELDON, CAN WE PLEASE ROLL?

A short clip shows a woman in her fifties communicating in a sign language.

Jeyan says ALL RIGHT. AFTER LOOKING AT THAT, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT MARSHA WAS SIGNING?

The caption changes to "Shelby Lisk, @shelbyliskphoto."

Shelby says YEAH. IN THAT CLIP SHE IS SIGNING "HAPPY NATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY." HER AND I TALKED A LOT ABOUT THE SIGN FOR INDIGENOUS. GROWING UP, SHE LEARNED THE ASL SIGN FOR INDIAN, WHICH SHE DESCRIBED TO ME AS YOU MAKE THE LETTER F IN ASL AND IT'S A MOVEMENT ON YOUR CHEEK. SHE NEVER REALLY FELT LIKE THAT SIGN CONNECTED HER TO HER CULTURE, AND SO SHE CREATED THIS SIGN WHICH SHE FEELS MUCH MORE CONNECTED TO. SO THE SIGN FOR INDIGENOUS, YOUR LEFT HAND REPRESENTS THE LAND AND YOUR RIGHT HAND COMES IN AND REPRESENTS THE WATER AND THEN THE ROOF. AND I THINK IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL AND VISUAL AND THAT'S THE SIGN SHE NOW USES FOR INDIGENOUS. SHE SAYS THAT REALLY GIVES HER A SENSE OF PRIDE IN WHO SHE IS.

Jeyan says THAT'S VERY BEAUTIFUL. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE THIRD SERIES, AND IT'S THE THIRD LANGUAGE YOU LOOKED AT, WHICH WAS OJIBWE. UNLIKE LUNAAPE OR OSL, IT'S A FAIRLY COMMONLY SPOKEN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE HERE IN CANADA. WHY DID YOU WRITE ABOUT THE ALLEN FAMILY?

The caption changes to "A family affair."

A picture shows a young woman sitting at a table with a toddler boy as another toddler sits nearby.

Shelby says I FOUND THIS FAMILY AND I WAS REALLY INSPIRED BY ROCHELLE ALLAN. SHE WAS A REALLY BEGINNER LANGUAGE LEARNER. BUT WHEN SHE HAD HER CHILDREN SHE DECIDED, NO, I WANT TO RAISE THEM IN THE LANGUAGE ANYWAY. SHE IS KIND OF LEARNING OJIBWE AT THE SAME TIME AS SHE IS TEACHING IT TO THEM AS THEY GROW UP. SHE SAID TO ME I COULD WAIT UNTIL I'M FLUENT BUT THEN MY CHILDREN WOULD GROW UP WITHOUT THE LANGUAGE AND SHE DIDN'T WANT THAT. I FIND IT REALLY INSPIRING THAT SHE STARTED WHERE SHE WAS AND JUST DID IT.

Jeyan says ONE OF THE THINGS THAT SHE HAS BEEN DOING IS PRODUCING VIDEOS. WE HAVE ONE VIDEO WHERE SHE'S DOING A LITTLE STRETCH WITH HER KID. SHELDON, CAN WE ROLL THAT?

A clip plays in which the young woman and the two toddlers sit on the floor inside a room and speak.

[LAUGHTER]

(SPEAKING OJIBWE)

As a word pops up briefly and a voice repeats the word, the woman and the toddlers stretch their legs and try to touch their toes with their stretched arms.

The clip ends.

Jeyan says BESIDES BEING SUPER, SUPER ADORABLE, WHAT CAN ADULTS, AND AN EXAMPLE THE ALLAN FAMILY, LEARN FROM CHILDREN WHEN IT COMES TO LEARNING LANGUAGES AND A NEW LANGUAGE?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Shelby says ROCHELLE TALKS A LOT ABOUT... SHE DOESN'T KNOW SHE COULD HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT HER CHILDREN. AND A LOT OF THE LANGUAGE LEARNING TECHNIQUES HELPED HER LEARN THE LANGUAGE SO MUCH BETTER. THESE ARE SOME THINGS AS ADULTS, WE'RE NOT AS PATIENT AS CHILDREN WHEN THEY'RE LEARNING A LANGUAGE. WE DON'T WANT TO SIT THERE AND TRY TO READ AND MESS UP. WE REALLY WANT TO GET IT REALLY QUICKLY BECAUSE WE WANT TO COMMUNICATE, YOU KNOW, WE LIKE COMMUNICATING. ONE OF THE THING SHE TALKS ABOUT EVEN WITH READING BOOKS TO HER SON OVER AND OVER WHEN HE WAS REALLY YOUNG AND, YOU KNOW, SHE DIDN'T REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT SHE WAS READING, BUT THAT'S THE SAME WAY KIDS LEARN. THEY READ IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND THEY'RE JUST ABSORBING THE LANGUAGE, EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE NOT QUITE SURE WHAT'S GOING ON.

The caption changes to "Producer: Jeyan Jeganathan, @JeyanTVO."

Jeyan says SHELBY, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH. AGAIN, ANOTHER IMPORTANT STORY. OUR VIEWERS CAN CHECK THAT OUT ON TVO.org. SHELBY LISK JOINING US FROM OTTAWA, OUR ONTARIO HUBS JOURNALIST COVERING INDIGENOUS ISSUES. THANK YOU AGAIN.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Shelby says THANKS, JEYAN.

(music plays)

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Reconnecting Through Language