Consult your community




Introduction






Community is at the core of a language revitalization project like FirstVoices. Consultation and engagement are crucial for the project’s success and will uplift your work and your team.

Even if you are from the same community that you are consulting with, there is much to consider and there also may be a different dynamic with you now working on a language project. There may also be different dynamics between different families or other groups or organizations within the community. There is much to consider.

Language can highlight things within us, both positive and negative. It can inspire and reconnect people, but it can also be traumatizing for some due to the ongoing prejudice and barriers to using Indigenous languages and the legacy of residential schooling and day schooling. Discussions, decisions, and other unseen factors can be triggering for Elders and others with inherited trauma.

It will be important to walk gently in this work and to actively practice care. Above all else, be thoughtful in your consultation. 




Considerations for Consultation




Use language and terminology that are already accepted in the community

If you live in the community, this might be easier than if you are returning home or are from a different Nation or you are non-Indigenous. Certain terms that may be common in language revitalization work might have negative associations or be outdated. Some Elders might also recognize and use different words or names for concepts when identifying aspects of the language. Rather than correcting elders, it is often more productive to accept and adapt to the terminology that they are comfortable and familiar with.

For example, using very technical jargon like ‘morphosyntax’ and ‘enclitic’ compared to ending might cause more confusion or make someone feel self-conscious if they do not know this specialized vocabulary. This self-consciousness might deter folks from participating or meaningfully engaging in discussions.



If people are interested in these terms and learning more, consider holding a workshop or Q&A session and focus on demystifying linguistics and other words and themes.

This type of action promotes an equitable exchange of knowledge or reciprocity. It also is a step in building capacity and lessens the chances for gatekeeping language knowledge.



To better engage and bring more people in who are interested in the project, be responsive to what is received well in the community and adapt how you talk about your project and work to be more comprehensible and comforting. Consultation is not a business negotiation but a sharing of insights, concerns, and protocols.

Making language accessible is also a central aspect in Informed Consent, which is needed for working with language speakers. Information needs to be clear, so that people know what they are agreeing to or can decline engagement (with confidence).

More information on Informed Consent and your FirstVoices project can be found here.

Prepare questions beforehand for language gathering sessions with language speakers

In a nutshell, be ready for the unexpected.

In order to be flexible and ready to address challenges, it is necessary to prepare and go through internal consultation in your team before bringing important information for an open discussion with community members and speakers.

People’s time is precious, and this is especially true for Elders and Knowledge Holders. You want to be thoughtful in your engagement, remember to use accessible language, and conduct yourself professionally but also comfortably.

The work you are doing is important and should be uplifted. Language work should also be done respectfully.

In taking the time to think critically, prepare and present questions, you practice this respect and show it to both the language and the community.

Include many hands and minds in your work

It is common to talk about ‘working in silos’, and unfortunately, it is still a challenge in many programs and communities to bridge these divides.

While working on your language project, it is possible to become very isolated as a result of your own determination, team’s workflow, and need to meet deadlines.

It is important to remember that language work is meant to uplift all speakers, learners, and community members. In working on your project, try to include and welcome community members who are interested to take part in the process.

This is more than a gesture, but an informed practice, supported by many Indigenous ways of knowing. Work is not done alone and in many seasonal activities and customs, all members of a family or community take part where they are needed and where they excel at to get the work done, to do it well, and ultimately, to share in knowledge.

Some community members might feel inherently excluded from language work. They might be anxious to start learning, feel judged for not knowing enough or to not have started sooner, and have other concerns that might prevent them or steer them away from the project and getting involved.

Make yourself accessible and reaffirm people’s dedication and accomplishments, which might even be coming to their first community forum or meeting about a language app or new keyboard. These are meaningful steps in healing and should be praised and uplifted.

Acknowledge boundaries

Many of the previous considerations address the need to engage, communicate, and be present with interested community members.

And, all these suggestions ring true.

However, boundaries are also important in your consultation. It is wise to not tread over the boundaries when consulting community and acknowledge them as appropriate for your own sake, too. In beginning your work as a team and consulting with community more frequently, consider forming an agreement for 'ways of working together' to ground and inform your practice. Beginning each community session with a prayer or other protocol also may help in this aspect to call people in and move forward together.

Language work can be a place where passion arises as well as differing opinions. In some cases, you might need to excuse yourself or to address these occurrences if they become frequent or not constructive in strengthening the group or project. If someone cannot be called in or there needs to be longer time to self-reflect on difficult conversations, then it is important to give others (and yourself) space to do that internal work.



It may be helpful to also consider establishing a network of resources available in your community that can further support when instances that surface lateral violence or reactive feelings.



Some boundaries are established for you by the community, and some are ones that you need to make yourself. This will help you to not burnout and keep yourself grounded. For example, taking on too much work or too many responsibilities compared to your capacity can be a breach of a personal boundary. 

In general, boundary making is a key component in relationship building.

Strong relationships do have boundaries, which can be constructed or adjusted as needed. If you or others feel that saying ‘no’ is not really option or that the work comes before personal or communal well-being, then it may be wise to re-evaluate the team’s and participants’ expectations, talk candidly about each other’s priorities, and reaffirm where there is agreement in the project before moving forward.




Planning for Consultation




In Your Application

When you submit an application for FirstVoices funding, you are also required to submit at least one community support letter and at least one support letter from within your organization. This represents support and consent from within your community and communicates to us that you have undertaken a consultation process to produce these letters.

When you submit an application to FirstVoices, we also ask you to commit to hosting a sharing event. Without this piece of the application, the project is not eligible.

Ongoing Consultation

You are also encouraged to engage in ongoing consultation, in a way that is appropriate for your project and your community. It is important to engage in open-invite community discussions when deciding to start a FirstVoices language site, or to follow an equivalent cultural protocol for community decision-making.

This can look like a feast, chief and council meeting, or less formal open invite gathering. Some communities choose to produce a Band Council Resolution or other official or informal documentation of this meeting and the decisions that they come to. Another possible way to do this is by distributing an online survey.



FirstVoices has provided a simple survey template to reflect common questions heard by communities and suggest a structure for receiving online feedback.

Preparing a Community Sharing Event

At the end of your project (sometime in the spring to early summer) you are asked to hold a Community Sharing Event as part of your project.



Note: in the Language Technology Program (LTP), if your only component is a Digitization project (DiGI) than a sharing event is not required through the application.

However, we do encourage that you share your DiGI project in some way and the FPCC team can help brainstorm and support your planning and gathering.



The intention of the community sharing event requirement is to ensure that your community is given the opportunity to learn about what you have accomplished and to celebrate your successes with you. This gives the community an opportunity to learn how to use FirstVoices and increases awareness of and interest in your project. If your project continues beyond this point, this event may be an opportunity for community members who are interested in contributing to step forward and become involved.

In planning your Community Sharing Event, take into consideration how the language project will be shared, including:

  • what information should be provided to the attendees;

  • what acknowledgements should be made and to whom;

  • if giveaways would increase attendance;

  • if there is a fun way to share links or information information (e.g. stickers or QR-codes);

  • if the venue is accessible for people who have mobility needs;

  • how much is budgeted for the location and accommodations;

  • and, does it make sense to invite special guests or individuals.

If you would like FPCC to help publicize your event as a public one, please get in touch with Kyra (kyra@fpcc.ca) or Ben (ben@fpcc.ca).




Language Program Planning




FPCC Language Coaches

Consultation is a long-term process and may require planning. Working on your FirstVoices project, you should also feel free to reach out to the FPCC Language Coaches who assist communities with program planning through facilitating communication between groups, visioning, and capacity development.

They can help communities build up their language revitalization initiatives through strategic language planning and by providing access to FPCC tools and resources. The coaches also offer ongoing project support and guidance to all FPCC grant recipients.

As a result of COVID-19, the language coaches have adjusted their approach and can provide information about how to continue language revitalization work in a safe way during this time. FPCC coaches are available to connect virtually by phone, email, video chat, or other channels that work best for you.

To set up a virtual meeting, please contact us at: languagecoaches@fpcc.ca.

Language Technology Program Team

The Language Technology Program team is also here to help in ongoing consultation and communication with community and in other group discussion settings.

If you would like to discuss longer term program planning and strategies for your LTP project, please contact Kyra (kyra@fpcc.ca) or Ben (ben@fpcc.ca).




Additional Resources






Other resources that discuss planning and working with community members like Elders can be found below: