Here are brief answers to some of the most common questions you might have about Michif and our work in language revitalization:
Michif is a traditional language of the Métis people. It is a “contact language” – a language born when two or more languages have prolonged contact with each other. Michif is mostly comprised of elements from Plains Cree and French with some Ojibwe, and more recently some borrowings from English, which is reflective of its historical influences and multilingual roots.
Several different varieties of Michif are spoken by Métis people, and there are variations within these as well. These varieties can be grouped largely into three categories: Northern Michif, Southern Michif, and Michif French.
The Métis homeland is spread out over Manitoba, North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and small parts of Ontario and British Columbia. Our languages are spoken across this territory, and among Métis people in the diaspora.
Unfortunately, Michif is facing serious challenges to its vitality. There are a small number of mother-tongue speakers, all Elders/old ones, and Michif has been called “critically endangered”. But many people are now reclaiming our languages and learning to speak. We have master-apprentice programs, language classes, and now digital tools such as our online course and talking dictionary. We are hopeful for a future where the Michif language thrives.
We are particularly interested in having citizens of the Métis nation learn, reclaim and speak our languages to create living language communities. However, respectful allies who want to support our goals and learn Michif for their own personal edification are welcome. We ask that you not use our materials and resources for commercial or research purposes without contacting us first.
The benefits of Indigenous language revitalization go far beyond just the ability to use new words or grammar. Reclaiming and reconnecting with our languages brings us closer to our ancestors, our present-day communities, and future generations. It is central to our identity as Métis people. Learning our languages helps us appreciate the history and worldviews of our people, the knowledge transmitted through our languages, and our special Métis sense of humor (some jokes just aren’t funny when you translate them!). In addition, Indigenous language revitalization has been shown to have positive effects on mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Languages need community in order to thrive. By learning Michif, you are embodying the language and helping to recreate a viable speech community. We also know that reconnecting with your culture through language can promote both healing and well-being. Together, we are all creating and growing the Michif revitalization and reclamation movement!
First and most importantly, you can learn Michif and use it with the people in your life! We are also in the process of setting up a volunteering and donation program – stay tuned for further information. If you want to do more and have ideas for how to contribute, you can contact us.
Visit the Southern Michif for Beginners Online Course Community on Facebook – there are many learners, speakers, and reclaimers in this group you can connect with.
First of all, it is important for you to find out who your ancestors were and in what communities they lived and/or traded. Based on an understanding of their lives and relations, it may be possible to ascertain what languages they spoke. If not, then we suggest you learn the Michif which speaks to your heart.
First of all, we would suggest that you try our free online Michif course and join the Southern Michif for Beginners Online Course Community on Facebook.