CIRCA:First Voices


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FirstVoices is an initiative created by the First People's Cultural Council for Indigenous communities primarily in British Columbia to preserve their language. It is a digital open-source space where communities are able to teach and archive their linguistic heritage. There are currently over 70 member groups that hold their content in the FirstVoices site. Member groups retain ownership of their own content. This gives each community the agency of controlling and managing their own language archive. Each community chooses whether they want their language learning tools to be open or password protected depending on their needs. FirstVoices also gives a base for communities that have lost their language to rebuild their histories. The platform is a space for elders and youth to connect as elders share their language knowledge and youth improve their digital literacy while recording the knowledge from the elders.



Many Indigenous languages are at risk of becoming extinct. Around the world, indigenous people suffered genocide or were forbidden to speak their native languages under assimilation policies as their lands were colonized. This means their linguistic history is fading, in many cases with only elders left who speak the language. Bringing their languages back is a way of bringing their ways of knowing back. Language influences our worldview. Our heritage is the living expression of our identities and is part of having a healthy community. Looking after our cultural legacy is looking after our people.

First People’s Cultural Council (FPCC)

In 1990, the government of British Columbia formed the First People's Cultural Council as a crown corporation with the mandate First Nations in their efforts to revitalize their languages, arts and cultures. Their mission is supported by legislation: First People's Heritage, Language and Culture Act. FPCC pursues their mandate by:

  • Providing funding to First Nations culture and language programs
  • Supporting and advising on initiatives and programs related to language and culture
  • Providing services to help revitalize the cultural legacy of First Nations Communities.


In 2003, FPCC launched First Voices as an open-source initiative for communities to record and promote their oral history and culture. The site has over 50 nations, bands and non-profit organizations as part of their members. While the main goal is to support First Nations in British Columbia, First Voices has expanded and now has keyboard apps that support Indigenous languages in Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand. The First Voices initiative includes:

  • Online language archiving and teaching resource
  • Mobile dictionary apps
  • Language keyboards

Language Learning Tools

FirstVoices recognizes that for many communities broadband access is a challenge. For this reason, their apps are completely accessible offline once they are dowloaded.

Dictionary apps
FirstVoices has dictionary apps for Ehattesaht, Halq’eméylem, Hlg̲aagilda X̲aayda Kil, Ktunaxa, Kwak’wala, Nazko-Dakelh, Nisg̲a’a, Northern St’at’imcets, Secwépemc, SENĆOŦEN, Tla’amin, Lilwat - Ucwalmícwts, Xeni Gwet’in, Northern St̕'át̕'imcets, Sliammon, Skidegate Haida, Tseshaht, Haiɫzaqvḷa, she shashishalhem, Sm’algyax.
The keyboard app contains over 100 languages. Users are able to select any of the custom keyboard in any application on their device to communicate in their mother tongue.
Language Lab
It is an iPad-based language app that allows access to language learning without needing to access the FirstVoices website, facilitating offline access.

Technical Support

FirstVoices is easily accessible as open-source software, with documentation to support community language leaders in their revitalization efforts. Part of this process is engaging tech-savvy community members in training in professional audio recording and archiving techniques. Instruction and documentation for language champions include access to a wiki knowledge base, webinars, and phone access.


First Peoples' Cultural Council 2021 <>, retrieved 15 October 2021.
First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation 2021, FirstVoices <>, retrieved 14 October 2021.
FirstVoices, FirstVoices Knowledge Base,, retrieved 15 October 2021.
Garcia, Isabella 2020, How Technology Helps Preserve Endangered Indigenous Languages, <>, retrieved 15 October 2021.
Korff, J 2021, Aboriginal language preservation & revival, <>, retrieved 15 October 2021.
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