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‘Language is identity’: First Nation legislator to make history at Ontario legislature – Atin Ito News

May 27 2024

Decades after being punished in a residential school for speaking his own language, Sol Mamakwa will hold the powerful to account at Ontario’s legislature in the very same language past governments tried to bury.

On Tuesday, Mamakwa, the only First Nation legislator at Queen’s Park, will rise in the legislative chamber — with his mother, sister, brothers, friends and elders watching from the gallery — and ask a question in Anishininiimowin, known in English as Oji-Cree.

For the first time in its history, the Ontario legislature will allow, interpret and transcribe a language other than English and French.

It will also be a birthday gift to his mom, Kezia Mamakwa, who turns 79 that day, and a nod to his late father, Jerry Mamakwa.

“Language is nationhood, language is identity, language is where history comes from and language is me and my people,” Sol Mamakwa, a 53-year-old NDP legislator, said in an interview.

“It’s important because there’s so many of us who are losing our languages. I think it’s a step toward reconciliation and a step toward reviving our languages.”

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