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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Uniqueness of Aboriginal Language

Uniqueness of Aboriginal Language

Contribution of Language to

Visual representation of nature's laws

There is a problem of language. A study done for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples examined over two hundred commission and task force reports issued between 1966 and 1991. The researchers pointed out that even when we used the same words, Aboriginal people and government representatives were often talking about different things. The research also traced remarkable consistency in the issues and positions that Aboriginal people were articulating over those twenty-five years. I will return again to the issue of historical continuity in Aboriginal peoplesí priorities. I first want to focus on the nature of discourse between our cultures. By discourse I mean the way we carry on conversations.

The Language of God
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.


Inter-cultural discourse is carried on predominantly in English or French. Since this requires translation of concepts and experience, there is the normal problem of finding words in a second language that approximate the meaning we want to convey. But beyond that, the discourse has been framed in terms that are often fundamentally alien to the way we think about an issue. Take "land claims" for example. Elders in our nations find it strange that younger leaders launch "claims" to lands that have supported our peoples since time immemorial. "Comprehensive and specific claims" are the terms around which the Government of Canada is prepared to engage in legalistic dialogue. Aboriginal people have had to work with the prescribed terms in order to get land questions on the policy agenda, even though the language distorts our reality. The discourse is driven by an imbalance in power, and considerations of strategy. In other areas as well - governance, health, education - Aboriginal people have been required to adopt language that is not quite our own.

I want to take most of this hour to suggest how dialogue with Aboriginal people might be framed in different terms, looking for language that expresses Aboriginal perspectives and also connects with the aspirations of a wide spectrum of Canadians.

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