(Un)learning through a research internship about Indigenous language revitalization: A story of an encounter between a PhD student and two professors (by Ingrid Jasor, Dr Belinda (kakiyosēw) Daniels and Dr Andrea Sterzuk)

Ingrid Jasor, the first of our team of three guest bloggers this week, is a PhD student in Education from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Language Science/Linguistics from Université des Antilles in Guadeloupe, a Caribbean Island she calls home. Her research topics are centered around bilingualism in diglossia context, minoritized language valorization and revitalization as well as additional language acquisition processes. She is also an English as a Second/Foreign Language teacher and an avid language learner. Apart from her native French and Kréyòl-Gwadloup languages and bilingual English, she is currently practicing her Spanish, working on getting back to her Arabic (Fusha) and is now honored to be learning Innu-Aimun and nēhiyawēwin (Cree) Indigenous languages.

Belinda kakiyosēw Daniels, our guest blogger last week, and Andrea Sterzuk are old friends of BILD; for their biographical information, please scroll to the end of the post.

This blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

Ingrid speaks:

On a Friday morning in March 2022, I found myself writing an email to Drs. Belinda (kakiyosēw) Daniels and Andrea Sterzuk. Reaching out to two recognized researchers after reading one of their co-authored articles is one of the wildest things I have ever done as a PhD student/junior researcher! You see, I am a French and Kréyòl Gwadloup-speaking “Black Antillean” (Celestine, 2011), from Guadeloupe (originally named “Karukera” or the “island of beautiful waters” by the Kalinago people), an island in the Caribbean colonized by the French.

Guadeloupe, in red

Thus, as an international doctoral student, still very much new to the territory that is colonially known as Canada, the very thought of personally meeting authors from my list of readings amazed me. At the suggestion of Dr. Caroline Payant, one half of my great research supervision team, (whose story you can read here), I contacted them about a research internship on a subject that I had just recently discovered: Indigenous Language Revitalization (ILR). Hinton (2001, 2011) broadly defines ILR as program development towards global reestablishment of a language that has ceased to be a communicative language of a community. Particularly, in the context of Canada, ILR is a growing multi-layered movement that consists of language planning and engineering, teacher-training, bilingual schooling, and immersion practices among others (Ball & McIvor, 2013; McIvor & Anisman, 2018). About the latter, I had the opportunity to learn directly from Dr Belinda Daniels’ extensive experience as a language immersion instructor and facilitator at nêhiyawak Language Experience Inc. In different ways, both Dr Belinda Daniels, as a nēhiyaw (Cree) activist, and Dr Andrea Sterzuk, as a white settler and language education researcher, contribute to this movement. Through the promotion of language immersion camps and numerous collaborative efforts in the field of applied linguistics, both look for ways to support Indigenous languages.

Belinda and Andrea at Cree language immersion camp

I sent my email to them on that Friday and was pleased to receive a reply within days. Getting a response so quickly and receiving such a warm welcome from them both was very encouraging and inspiring. You have to understand: being a PhD student, whatever the age, can be so demanding and foreign at times. Knowing that researchers are willing to spend some time to welcome me into their research projects is very refreshing. Furthermore, Impostor syndrome (Young, 2011) made me question my ability to keep up with the demands of an online internship with weekly meetings, particularly because I was speaking and writing in a second language. But I truly believe in connections, and I definitely developed a relationship with Belinda and Andrea through this experience. Sharing each other’s stories, perhaps as would be encouraged in a sharing circle, for instance, was tremendously helpful in lessening my initial insecurities. It was also great to meet Andrea in person (and hopefully very soon Belinda!) at Université de Laval in May 2022 as part of ACFAS. This was a very informative yet fun-filled day which included a beautiful performance by Inuk singer-songwriter Elisapie.

Andrea and Ingrid at ACFAS, Université de Laval

Belinda and Andrea share:

For Belinda, meeting Ingrid online for the first time was intriguing for a few reasons. Despite many differences, Belinda and Ingrid shared similarities. They had many connections around the feeling of otherness in their own countries. This feeling might stem from the colonizer’s rejection and active oppression of their historical, territorial, linguistic, racial, ethnic and cultural identities. Through many engaging conversations, Ingrid also gave Belinda and Andrea insight into what newcomers to what is colonially known as Canada may understand about Indigenous languages. After working on this internship with Ingrid, Belinda believes that Ingrid has a deeper understanding of the importance of the links made between language and land to the nêhiyaw identity and the struggle/resistance faced as Original Peoples who continue to remain nēhiyawak.

As we continued our weekly meetings throughout the summer, Ingrid also saw first-hand how Belinda and Andrea work together in their common interests around Indigenous language revitalization. Collaboration in academic writing and research is something that they both value greatly. As they’ve written about elsewhere (Daniels et al., 2021; Daniels & Sterzuk, 2022), visiting, laughter and time spent together are part of their research process. Every online visit with Ingrid began with some time to catch up on each other’s news. Perhaps this internship offered Ingrid a glimpse into new approaches to research.

Back to Ingrid:

In my opinion, my biggest learning curve was found in linking this experience with my current research project and my aspirations as a junior researcher. Working on minoritized language valorization and revitalization, in the context of Kréyòl Gwadloup and Quebec Īyiyū Ayimūn/ Īnū Ayimūn (East Cree), through multilingual-oriented second language teaching, this research internship was a perfect fit. The experience has helped me refine my own thesis subject and opened my mind to different ways of approaching ILR. For instance, I am an avid defender of plurilingual approaches (Cenoz & Gorter, 2013), yet still very influenced by a dominant monolingual mindset (Sterzuk & Shin, 2021) in my English as a Second Language teaching. By plurilingual approaches, as different to multilingual approaches, I mean any attempt to break language barriers within a language repertoire at an individual level. Working with Belinda and Andrea, I had to be willing to consider that total immersion in the Indigenous language, with very limited use of English, might be an effective and necessary way to revitalize a threatened language (Cenoz & Gorter, 2017).

In fact, these multilingual approaches, no matter how innovative and inclusive they are, sometimes fail to adapt to the realities of Indigenous-settler colonial contexts and to historical dominant language/threatened language dynamics (Ballinger et al., 2017). I also want to make room in my studies for rich Indigenous knowledge and research methods (Wilson, 2020). And this is exactly the bridge between the two that was embodied through my research internship experience with an Indigenous and a non-Indigenous researcher. I had the opportunity to really learn by listening to their stories, particularly from Andrea, who is not part of an Indigenous community but has worked extensively WITH them (and not ON them). One particular highlight was reading Dr Mela Sarkar’s 2017 article about her 10-year Mi’gmaq language revitalization collaboration and the process of building strong relationships within the community of International Language Revitalizers. Being in this process myself, I am finding any opportunity to work directly with an Indigenous community as a humbling and inspiring experience. As a Black person, non-Indigenous to this land yet not a settler either, reading and hearing testimonies about ILR research is both intimidating and exciting. I am learning that you need to be well-prepared and genuinely willing to learn new methods. This research internship has been just the right way to hop on this incredible new journey and make bridges with my own personal story as a Guadeloupean PhD student/junior researcher.

Dr. Belinda (kakiyosēw) Daniels is from the community of pakitahwākan sākahikan – Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan. After completing her undergraduate studies in education, she began a journey in nēhiyawēwin (Cree) language recovery, inspired by having and raising her family. She is self-taught and now teaches others how to teach and learn an Indigenous language as a second language learner both as a faculty member with the University of Victoria and through a not-for-profit organization called nēhiyawak Language Experience, which she founded in 2004. Belinda is married and has four children and a new grandchild. kakiyosēw is grateful to be a visitor to the island of Victoria where she lives and works.

Andrea Sterzuk grew up in an English-speaking, settler family in rural Saskatchewan. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a public-school teacher in rural Saskatchewan as well as in the Canadian arctic.  She is currently a professor in the Faculty of Education and the Associate Vice President, Research at the University of Regina, located in Treaty 4 territory.  


Ball, J., & McIvor, O. (2013). Canada’s big chill: Indigenous languages in education. In C. Benson & K. Kosonen (Eds.), Language issues in comparative education: Inclusive teaching and learning in non-dominant languages and cultures (pp. 19-38). Sense Publishers.

Ballinger, S., Lyster, R., Sterzuk, A., & Genesee, F. (2017). Context-appropriate crosslinguistic pedagogy: Considering the role of language status in immersion education. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 5(1), 30-57.

Célestine, A. (2011). French Caribbean organizations and the ‘Black question’ in France. African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, 4(2), 131-144 .https://doi.org/10.1080/17528631.2011.583451

Cenoz, J., & Gorter, D. (2017). Minority languages and sustainable translanguaging: Threat or opportunity?. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38(10), 901-912. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2017.1284855

Daniels, B., Sterzuk, A., Turner, P., Cook, W. R., Thunder, D., & Morin, R. (2021). ē-ka-pimohteyāhk nīkānehk ōte nīkān: nēhiyawēwin (Cree Language) revitalization and Indigenous knowledge (Re) generation. In A Sociolinguistics of the South (pp. 199-213). Routledge.  https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315208916

Daniels, B., & Sterzuk, A. (2022). Indigenous language revitalization and applied linguistics: conceptualizing an ethical space of engagement between academic fields. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique appliquée, 25(1), 1-18.         https://doi.org/10.37213/cjal.2022.31841       

Hinton, L. (2001). Language revitalization: An overview. In L. Hinton & K. Hale (Eds.), The green book of language revitalization in practice (pp. 1- 18). Brill.

Hinton, L. (2011). Language revitalization and language pedagogy: New teaching and learn- ing strategies. Language and Education, 25(4), 307–318. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500782.2011.577220

McIvor, O., & Anisman, A. (2018). Keeping our languages alive: Strategies for Indigenous language revitalization and maintenance. In Y. Watanabe (Ed.), Handbook of cultural security (pp. 90-109). Edward Elgar Publishing.

Sterzuk, A., & Shin, H. (2021). English monolingualism in Canada: A critical analysis of language ideologies. In U. Lanvers, A.S. Thompson, & M. East (Eds.), Language learning in Anglophone countries (pp. 53-70). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56654-8

Wilson, S. (2020). Research is ceremony: Indigenous research methods. Fernwood publishing.

Young, V. (2011). The secret thoughts of successful women: Why capable people suffer from the impostor syndrome and how to thrive in spite of it. Currency.

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