Our Project

NEȾOLṈEW̱ was initially conceived back in 2010, when Onowa McIvor and Peter Jacobs, the Co-leads, first met as doctoral students at UBC. Today, they are joined by nine community Partners, representing over 40 Indigenous languages from across Canada.

Indigenous communities across Canada are doing great – and much needed – language revitalizaion and maintenance work. Increasingly, adults have been identified as the “missing generation” of learners who hold great potential to contribute to the revival of Indigenous languages in Canada by acting as the middle ground between Elders, children and youth within their communities.

However, we know that language learning at any age does not happen in isolation. It is within this context that our Partnership addresses Indigenous adult language learning. We use an approach that engages with, and studies, the spheres in which these adult learners both learn contribute.
These include five overlapping “sites” where Indigenous adults learn their language as well as pass it on to others, organized into five themes in our NEȾOLṈEW̱ Indigenous Language Research Network:

Our research encompasses five themes related to adult Indigenous language learning:

Theme 1: Environmental Scan

Operating in regional ‘hubs’, we are documenting significant sites of language revitalization across Canada. The information gathered in this sub‐project will be translated into an interactive, online map and repository to facilitate learning from and combining efforts across various types of immersion and bilingual Indigenous language revitalization projects in Canada.

Theme 2: Language‐learning Assessment Tool


As more adult Indigenous people begin learning their languages, there is an expressed need for context‐relevant assessment tools to document and evaluate their language learning progress specific to their learning situation (i.e. MAP, immersion, etc.). In our Partnership, we continue developing tools for assessment and test these with interested partner communities.

Theme 3: Sites of Adult Indigenous Language Learning and Teaching

The primary goal for communities is to advance proficiency among adult language learners and speakers, which will then further their efforts in building new speakers across generations. Research related to this theme aims to gain insights on the effectiveness and challenges of adult Indigenous language learning through various models, including Mentor‐Apprentice style programs, other adult immersion programs, including “language houses”, and language‐focused teacher training (both certified and professional‐development) programs.

Theme 4: Sites of Contribution

Adult Indigenous language learners are consistently called upon to pass on the language to others while continuing to learn their language themselves. They inherit this responsibility (relatively) early in their own learning process. We, therefore, consider the language learning and teaching effects of Indigenous adult language learners as teachers, through their role as parents and grandparents (and other important kinship and community roles).

Theme 5: Language and Health & Well‐Being

Studies suggest language use directly correlates with particular health outcomes for Indigenous people. Together we explore the ways adult learners’ health is affected by their involvement in language learning and teaching, as well as the ways their efforts contribute to the health and well‐being of the communities with which we work. In addition, we explore the links between trauma and those in our communities who have the language locked inside them, often referred to as latent speakers.