The February outreach envelope is for Aboriginal Neighbours’ Revitalizing Indigenous Living Languages (RILL) project. Aboriginal Neighbours is an ecumenical organization, initiated by our diocese, which works to build respect and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures. The RILL project was developed in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action Number 61. It raises funds for the First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s community-based mentor-apprentice language learning program.

In this program, a fluent speaker of an Indigenous language is paired with an apprentice learner, usually a young adult, and they commit to spending 300 hours a year working together, in full immersion in the Indigenous language. Funds raised cover training and supplies, and modest wages for mentors and apprentices to take the necessary time for teaching and learning their language. The need for mentor-apprentice programs is urgent, as many Elders, the fluent language speakers and knowledge keepers, are passing on too quickly.

Apprentice "graduates" of the program are expected to teach language and culture to the next generation. Along with increased language proficiency, they report restored connections with their Elders. Mentors are able to pass on cultural, spiritual and environmental knowledge which might otherwise be lost with their generation. Many Elders report they find a sense of pride, wholeness and hope as they engage in the immersion program with their apprentices. Supporting this program is an important way we can help heal connections that were broken by past injustices, and provide for future generations.

Aboriginal Neighbours members will be available during coffee hour after the 9:15 and 11:00 services this month to share more about the Mentor-Apprentice program.