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Our Last Words

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Catalogue Number:  FAR062
Producer:  Farpoint Films
Producing Agencies:  Farpoint Films Inc., Microbus Pictures
Subject:  Anthropology, Canadian History, Canadian Social Studies, Documentary, Environmental Studies, Family Studies/Home Economics, First Nations Studies, Guidance, Health, History, Indigenous Issues, Indigenous Peoples, Science, Social Issues, Social Sciences, Social Studies, Sociology
Language:  English
Grade Level:  9 - 12, Post Secondary, Adult
Country Of Origin:  Canada
Copyright Year:  2011
Running Time:  46:00

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It has been said that in less than a century only three languages will be spoken on earth: English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Could this be true? Are aging populations and globalization at the root of this monumental change? Along the Slave River, on the border of Alberta and NWT, in the town of Fort Smith, we get an early glimpse of this process.

Fort Smith is directly downstream from the Athabasca tar sands - the largest industrial project on earth and a cause of many health concerns. There is a another, lesser-known northern issue in Fort Smith and its neighboring communities. They have the last vestiges of the Chipewyan language and culture which until very recently, were protected by isolation. Now the local dialect of Chipewyan is disappearing, with only 500 people still speaking the language.

Filmmaker Angela Wanderingspirit traces her roots back to Fort Smith. Her grandparents inhabit a remote, off-the-grid cabin nearby, speaking their native tongue. Angela embarks on a journey of recovery, spending a summer in the woods with her grandparents, learning their language and culture. The cabin is twelve hours north of Edmonton, literally at the end of the road. Angela’s mission is to learn the Chipewyan language for herself and for her daughter, Essence, before modern society wipes out their Chipewyan roots.

Angela also learns that the Northwest Territories is now teaching Chipewyan in schools and developing dictionaries with help from elders. Back in Winnipeg, they continue to work on learning their language, determined to recover this part of their identity.

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