A group of Kwakwaka’wakw dancers from the north Island performed on an international stage Friday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
The contingent, which included William Wasden Jr., Eric Baker, Kaleb Child and Corrine Child, performed as part of the official launch event for the International Year of Indigenous Languages on Feb.1.
According to the UN, hundreds of ancestral languages have gone silent in recent generations, taking with them the culture, knowledge and traditions of the people who spoke them, which is what the organization wanted to preserve and revitalize those that remain.
UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces drew attention to the close connection between indigenous languages and ancestral culture.
During my presidency, I will use opportunities to advocate for indigenous peoples. Today, I with the steering committee for the organization of the Int'l Year of #IndigenousLanguages. I reaffirmed our commitment to preserve, promote & revitalize indigenous languages #UN4ALL pic.twitter.com/GCsgL13sIN
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) January 31, 2019
“They are much more than tools for communication, they are channels for human legacies to be handed down,” she noted in a release.
“Each indigenous language has an incalculable value for humankind,” she said. “When a language dies, it takes with it all of the memory bound up inside it.”
According to the UN, there are 4,000 indigenous languages in existence across the globe, and many are on the brink of extinction. There are 770 million indigenous people across 90 countries, constituting six per cent of the global population.