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Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) Evaluation

Aboriginal Languages Initiative Evaluation - Site Visit - Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre (ICRC), Inuvik N.W.T.

The Inuvialuit Settlement Region consists of six communities: Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Aklavik, Holman Island, Sachs Harbour, and Paulatuk. The approximately 3500 Inuvialuit are Inuit who speak three dialects of Inuvialuktun.

Languages in the Community

Inuvialuktun is strongest in the more remote communities of Holman Island and Paulatuk, and weaker in the others. Only in Holman Island is the language heard daily. English has become the common language, to the point where most Inuvialuit under 40 do not speak their language fluently if at all.

According to a report provided by the ICRC in April, 2002, "Inuvialuktun ... is on the brink of extinction...we believe there are less than 400 fluent speakers left. Most of these speakers are Elders divided between six communities. The language is endangered and no new speakers have been added for the last two generations." (1)

According to ICRC, "language loss is further complicated by the fact that the school language programs are extremely weak. In addition, most parents do not speak Inuvialuktun at home, so children have relatively few opportunities to learn and practice the language. Statistics provided by the GNWT in April 2000, based on 1996 census data, showed that only 160 of 4,131 Inuit in the territory (4%) listed Inuktitut (including Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun) as a home language." (2)

Goals and Objectives

In 1999 ICRC took a lead role in developing a draft Inuvialuit Language Plan, which described the issues relating to language loss and revitalization, and laid out a strategy for the survival of Inuvialuktun. The priorities identified in the Language Plan included:

  • Creating awareness and changing attitudes and values;
  • Strengthening existing programs;
  • Development of new initiatives;
  • Capacity building; and
  • Language and traditional knowledge preservation through recording, translation of oral histories and print publishing.


ALI funds are received through the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, which provides accounting services for ICRC. ICRC develops project proposals and budgets, and administers the funds.

ICRC also receives funding from INAC's Cultural Education Centre Program, the GNWT's Early Childhood Education Program, and the Beaufort Delta School District. The Muttart Foundation provides funds for a Child Development Trainer serving all of the communities.

During the period 1998-2002 the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre received a total of $503,023 from ALI, including the amounts in the table below.

Table 8: ALI funding for ICRC

1998-1999 $63,000
1999-2000 $158,277
2000-2001 $152,973
2001-2002 $129,253
Total $503,023

The ALI funding has been allocated to paying salaries for language instructors at the four Child Development Centres in Inuvialuit communities, as well as salaries and honoraria, database, translations, rent, book publishing and a regional language conference. The number of participants in the five communities varies depending on enrolment. The childcare centre in Tuktoyaktuk is licensed for 6 infants and 20 preschool children. Average attendance at the four centres currently operating totals 57 children.

Over the four years of the ALI program, ICRC estimates it has spent ALI funds in these areas:

Pre-school programs 50%
Salaries and honoraria 22%
Database, translations and rent 14%
Book Publishing 10%
Regional Language Conference 4%

The projects have operated within budget each year, and ICRC provides a narrative and financial report directly to the Department of Canadian Heritage each year. These are concise but sufficiently detailed to provide information on the various activities undertaken, including objectives, staffing, activities and outputs, and actual to projected costs. Overall, ICRC has never lapsed funds.

In the year 2001-2, the ALI funds were allocated as follows:

  • Child Development Centre Language Program: $98,175
    This includes salaries and resource materials.

  • Administration: $31,078
    This includes salaries for coordination and translation, as well as the production of resource materials including books, a dictionary, CD ROM and video.

Impacts and Effects

The program and projects are generally viewed as successful, with noticeable language gain by children. Although this is difficult to measure quantitatively, many informants related stories about children who come home and speak to their parents in Inuvialuktun, or greet their elders in the streets. The ALI has helped to create awareness of language issues, including among the political leadership, and it has helped to put money for language development back into the hands of the communities.

Participants feel the ALI should continue as it is important and complements other programs. Stable funding helps with planning. Change takes time and success can mean different things to different communities.


  1. ICRC, Summary Report-Aboriginal Language Initiative, Canadian Heritage, prepared for ITK meeting in Iqaluit, April 18 & 19, 2002. Other documents provided by ICRC included copies of Regional and other Language reports, the Inuvialuit Language Plan, Draft Version, April 1999; Memorandum of Understanding; and Language Survey; and copies of publications. The Tuktoyaktuk Child Development Centre provided various documents on its operations as well.

  2. Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture and Employment, Revitalizing, Enhancing, and Promoting Aboriginal Languages: Strategies for Supporting Aboriginal Languages, Yellowknife, undated.

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  Date modified: 2007/05/23 Important Notices