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Abstract

This paper address the question of how indigenous art and performance culture(s) can contribute to institutionalized language revitalization efforts in Canada, through their use of threatened indigenous languages. Drawing from a wide range of sources published between 1988 and 2014 by scholars, the Assembly of First Nations, departments and agencies of the Canadian government, and artistic practitioners, I illustrate the absence of performance from the available literature on language revitalization. By analyzing these documents thematically, I argue that a substantial shift occurred in the public discourse surrounding language revitalization between the 1980s and 1990s, and the mid- to late-2000s. Whereas scholarship and policy proposals published during the 1980s and 1990s were strongly influenced by Joshua Fishman’s research on language revitalization, public discourse a decade later framed language revitalization in the language of land claims. Following Glen Coulthard, I suggest that this shift should be understood as part of the broader emergence of a “politics of recognition” in Canadian discourse. At the level of Canadian and Aboriginal government policy, this discursive shift has left even less room for performance and theatre within the wider project of language revitalization. Insofar as the arts are a rich source of pedagogical material, my aim is to undermine the discursive impediments to their use by language educators and policy makers in the field of language revitalization.