Eldon Yellowhorn (Piikani Blackfoot) is an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University. His work involves unconventional approaches to including language in everyday activities inside and outside of the language classroom. He has worked on combining Blackfoot language revitalization activities with other approaches and technologies in order to benefit both. Such work is important to show how language activities can be integrated into other activities, and vice versa. In previous work he has combined math and language education, in particular through the “Small Number” videos, in which a character called Small Number solves math problems while using the Blackfoot language. Dr. Yellowhorn challenges people to think outside the box and use unconventional methods. To learn more about Dr. Yellowhorn and his work see HERE.

Presentation title and abstract:

Blackfoot Blogs and Boutique Languages
Social media offer novel strategies for preserving endangered languages. The emergence of YouTube offers one platform to couple videography with the oral tradition to preserve features of the spoken word such as accent and cadence. Although a systematic approach to writing Blackfoot began in the mid-20th century, text-based language instruction is still a linguistic novelty and mass literacy is still a dream. Now blogs and apps are manifesting a potential for sharing stories in aboriginal languages, but the critical mass required to keep a language vibrant often exceeds the number of native speakers. Therefore, the best strategy may be to start sharing aboriginal languages with members of the general public to create the critical mass needed and to inject them with new energy. Starting the conversation will be difficult due to the dwindling number of speakers. I will examine the status of this project and make the case for expanding the Blackfoot language beyond its cultural boundaries.