Adult Attitudes Towards Dene Yatie/Zhatié: A community questionnaire (pilot study)

Regions: Dehcho Region

Tags: social sciences, linguistics, youth, indigenous language

Principal Investigator: Coates, Alice (1)
Licence Number: 16869
Organization: University of Manitoba, Linguistics Department
Licensed Year(s): 2021
Issued: Jul 30, 2021

Objective(s): To further study adolescent attitudes which impact language health; and to address the lack of data about attitudes as they relate to Indigenous languages and community approaches in Canada.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.4666.

Attitudes of adolescents towards language are viewed in the literature as a key marker of language health. This is particularly important for communities in the NWT, where language revitalization and maintenance often centers on efforts made through school programs. Currently, no research has addressed the relationship of different community approaches to learning outcomes in adolescents, making it hard to understand the complex factors which affect language health in remote communities with large or majority-Indigenous populations.

The aims of this study are to: 1) provide context for further study into adolescent attitudes which impact language health, if possible, at a later date; 2) provide data to educators and community leaders regarding attitudes in their community; 3) begin to address the lack of data about attitudes as they relate to Indigenous languages and community approaches in Canada.

The study seeks to answer the following research questions:
RQ1 : Do adults differ in their attitudes by community?
RQ2 : Do adults differ in their attitudes by age group?
RQ3 : Do adults have different attitudes to language learning programs to the language itself?
RQ 4: Do males have different attitudes to females?

Community members will be asked to answer the questionnaire anonymously, and will be able to answer in paper form, which the Principal Investigator (PI) will distribute to local centres (church, band office, friendship centre, library and eateries) at the beginning of the stay in each community. Staff members at each school will be asked to respond to the questionnaire anonymously, via internal mail, or by filling out the paper form, and leaving it with me.

The community questionnaire is designed to gather information from adults directly or indirectly connected to the school programs and their attitudes to the language and the program in their community. Respondents will be asked to declare their relationship to any student (parent/care-giver/grandparent) as a Yes/No question. No other data regarding their family will be asked.

The questionnaire itself asks questions about what they think of Dene, its functions and usage, and a few questions about language-learning in the school context. Some questions ask participants to rate their feelings about something on a scale of strong to weak. Other questions are open and in a ‘short answer’ format. Participants can write as much or as little as they want to answer these questions. All answers are confidential, and no names are asked or kept on file.

All potential participants will be given a 4 page consent form which they can read through alone, or with the PI and ask questions about prior to doing the questionnaire. The PI’s contact information will be on the consent form so that they can get in touch with me at any time to ask questions about the questionnaire, their data or participation. Each questionnaire issued has a number attached to it. Each participant retains this number, and my contact details so that they can get in touch and ask for their data to be withdrawn from the study without declaring their identity. The parameters of withdrawal are explained fully on the consent form: that any participant can withdraw their responses, using the number issued to them, at any time, which is the arbitrary date set for publication of data.

The form also allows them to opt-in to being quoted anonymously- meaning that their number will be kept on a secure list, so that the researcher knows who has agreed to be quoted. Some part of their answers to some questions may (but not necessarily) appear in the finished article about the study.
This form also allows them to opt-in to having a summary of the results for their community sent to them as soon as it is available, after analysis. This part of the form asks for a form of contact, either an email or postal address. Anyone who opts-in to this will appear by participant number on a list of addresses, so that the researcher can send off results to them.

For each community, the PI is drawing on connections already established in the teaching communities, and among elders to work on how to best approach people and learn their opinions, as well as work on a concrete plans and agreements with each community regarding the use of data. The PI is in the process of approaching the organizations through their publicly available email addresses etc.

The PI has begun the process of introducing herself to relevant stakeholders and outlining the proposed study to them. The PI hopes this will develop into agreements as to how the study will proceed, in each community, to satisfy this process, but mostly to build a solid relationship. The PI wants to establish research agreements, specifically governing the retention of data in the communities, and my use of data up to publication.

The PI will remain open to questions and concerns throughout the process, and be guided by community members and leaders in the above organizations as to how to work in their community. From past experience, the PI is also hoping to be able to engage with the community by attending local events, should there be any at the time.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 30, 2021 to December 31, 2021.