a center for evolving aboriginal media, visual and performing arts

Wally Dion, Red Worker

Wally Dion, Red Worker from the exhibition No Word for Goodbye. 2006

Even in instances where language and culture disappear through trauma of assimilation and prejudice, there remain the remnants of the philosophies that nurture survival.  Felicia Gay articulates, Language embodies the way a society thinks.  Through learning and speaking a particular language, an individual absorbs the collective thought processes of a people.(p78) Though First Nations languages have struggled in these last generations to regenerate fluent speakers; those remnants that are intricately tied to language remain as a collective thought process or in other words produce a First Nations worldview.  In the Cree language and in numerous other First Nation languages there is no work for goodbye; after all it is an English and Christian construct meaning God be with you.  The English connotation that coincides with goodbye is to part with a blessing but also has a connotation of finality that is not seen in most if not all First Nation languages in Canada.  The notion of cycles touches not only culture;but also touches on the way we perceive others and ourselves.  When Europe painted or photographed Indians, their worldview was linear.  At the time the Indian was seen as something that would die or cease to exist.  Our First Nations worldview is not linear but cyclical.  That is why our languages do not contain a concept of finality.  When we look at ourselves with our worldview, we do not conceive an end.  There is no word for goodbye; the absence of finality in our language gives First Nation a place of resistance and creates a place for transformation.  Language is a tactic of survival.  This is the purpose of No Word for Goodbye.

Little Bear,  Leroy Jagged Worldviews Colliding,  Marie Battiste (Ed) Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision Vancouver:UBC Press, 2000

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