School District 58 received a grant of $6,571 to support Indigenous language learning in the Nicola Valley.

As part of the B.C. Ministry of Education’s mandate to reflect Indigenous wordviews and perspectives in the the kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum, the grant is designed to support Indigenous language curriculum, programs and policy.

Superintendent Stephen McNiven explained this grant is on top of one previously received to support the n?e?kepmxcin language nest curriculum and resources.

“This second grant is to help the school district pursue the recent conversations we’ve had with Lower Nicola around partnering with about two or three different activities,” he said, adding that the the Nooaitch, Shackan, and Coldwater bands are also involved in the conversation.

The first is the possibility of introducing a district component to the Lower Nicola language nest partnering with Lower Nicola’s language nest — bringing a district component. The second is language development over the summer for adult learners in order to increase the number of potential instructors in the future and the third is a joint partnership with the building of a shishkin.

He told the Herald he’s feeling positive about the options.

“So those conversations are going on right now and the ministry dollars that we received are to help us carry on with them,” he said. “Right now the initiatives are focused on the n?e?kepmxcin language, but in Upper Nicola we focus on the Suxwtxtem language.

McNiven noted the district’s language programs have grown stronger in the last two years, and this year in particular.

“We’ve seen more students participating — taking both languages — and we’re just doing our best to build capacity around it because it’s very difficult to find fluent speakers of the languages,” he explained.

The school district has two goals moving forward, said McNiven.

“One is work on the early learning piece of this through the language nest, or what we would describe as a StrongStart approach,” he said. “The second is determining how we can build capacity in our adult learners so they might become fluent speakers — and therefore teachers in the future.”

McNiven said the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) is another partner in these exploratory conversations.

“They are part of the discussion at this point, and we’re trying to figure out where we go in the near future with it,” he said. “NVIT, both from the expertise they have around the traditional languages and their early childhood education program, has facets that we’re interested in pursuing.”