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NEWS RELEASE · 10th June 2010
M. of Advanced Education
Keeping First Nations languages and memories alive for future generations is the focus of a series of moving Knowledge-produced documentaries that premiered last night in Vancouver.

Our First Voices is a collection of 13 short documentaries told in their original First Nations languages. The documentaries explore the creative efforts being made by First Nations communities in British Columbia to preserve their languages for the future and bring generations together to reinvest in the future of their communities.

"Thanks to the work and dedication of the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Council, Knowledge and its independent film producers, these documentaries will assist in efforts to preserve First Nations languages for future generations to appreciate," said Advanced Education and Labour Market Development Minister Moira Stilwell, who attended the screening of the documentaries. "That's why we continue to support Knowledge so they can continue to champion important projects like First Voices."

In 2009, the Province provided a $150,000 grant to Knowledge for production of short documentaries about First Nations languages in British Columbia.

Filmmakers recorded 13 stories - using 15 distinct languages - relating the histories and cultures that link First Nations people in B.C. They interacted with and were inspired by local residents who shared stories that connect them to their cultures through language. Knowledge will broadcast the full documentary on June 21, which is Aboriginal Day, and again on June 29. The documentary will then be divided into 13 shorts, which will air on Knowledge in between programs over the next year.

"Our First Voices is a significant initiative designed to help B.C. First Nations revitalize, protect and sustain their languages, dialects and culture for future generations," said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister George Abbott. "Our government is proud to support these efforts - the task is very challenging but immensely important to Aboriginal people and to all British Columbians."

Our First Voices was commissioned by Knowledge and produced by independent film company Bliss Productions. All the directors who worked on the film are Aboriginal and from British Columbia and include Lisa Jackson, Zoe Leigh Hopkins, Kelvin Redvers, and Helen Haig-Brown. It will be broadcast on Knowledge June 21 at 7:30 p.m. and available online at Knowledge.ca.

"Our First Voices is the culmination of our year-long focus on First Nations programming from international, continental and provincial perspectives," said president and CEO of Knowledge Network Corporation Rudy Buttignol. "These stories speak to the seminal relationship between language and culture, and demonstrate the passion and commitment of our new generation of storytellers."

Aboriginal language and culture is an important part of the rich diversity of the province, which is home to the largest percentage of indigenous dialects in Canada - 60 per cent. With 32 distinct languages and 59 dialects, British Columbia is considered Canada's most linguistically diverse province.

"This timely project offers the opportunity to inform all British Columbians about the importance of First Nations languages," said Dr. Lorna Williams, the Chair of the Board at the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Council. "Currently in the province, eight First Nations languages are severely endangered and another 22 are nearly extinct. These documentaries highlight the urgent need to revitalize the province's endangered languages before it's too late."

The Province is committed to working with the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Council and First Nations to protect and revitalize languages and cultures, and to restore fluency and literacy in First Nations languages. Since 2001 the Province has provided over $13 million to the First People's Council for First Nations language and cultural revitalization.

FirstVoices, an online program of the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Council, that works to preserve First Nations culture by recording, archiving and sharing languages. FirstVoices has more than 60 communities from across Canada archiving their endangered languages, with 35 of those languages publicly available online at firstvoices.com.

Knowledge is a viewer-supported public educational broadcaster that provides commercial-free creative documentaries, arts and culture and children's programs from Canada and around the world. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development provides annual funding of $6 million, along with donations from Partners In Knowledge and media partnerships revenue. Knowledge plays a vital role in supporting the independent production community in B.C. and the rest of Canada by commissioning, pre-licensing and acquiring documentary and children's content for broadcast on Knowledge and Knowledge.ca.