Nı̨̀ı̨̀kè! Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories introduces stop signs in English and Wiliideh

Yellowknife, Ndilo and Dettah are getting bilingual stop signs with ‘stop’ written in English and Wiliideh. (Avery Zingel/CBC)
At some Yellowknife intersections, drivers might linger a little longer.

If they do, it may be because the city has new bilingual stop signs that say “stop” and “Nı̨̀ı̨̀kè” in English and Wiliideh (Wıı̀lıı̀deh Yatıı̀), the dialect spoken by Yellowknives Dene.

“We’ve been here since time immemorial. We’ve been here since before the city was established. So we wanted to get people to recognize the traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene, the Wiliideh Dene, in our language.”Dettah Chief Edward Sangris

Listen to Chief Sangris say “Nı̨̀ı̨̀kè” here:

Reconciliation plan based on community feedback

The signs are part of the city’s reconciliation plan, based on community feedback that Wiliideh should be more present in Yellowknife, said Mayor Rebecca Alty.

“It’s important to have the visual culture and language of the YKDFN [Yellowknives Dene First Nation] around town because this is their land, we’re on Chief Drygeese Territory.”Rebecca Alty, Mayor of Yellowknife

The city has ordered 40 stop signs, said Alty. The plan is to put them up downtown, in Ndilo and in Dettah, and to use them in the future to replace current stop signs as they age.

“I always think of how we travel to Mexico and we know how to say a few things, but how many words do we know in the local Indigenous language here in our home?” Rebecca Alty, Mayor of Yellowknife
“This is one way to have that increased visibility and to learn more about the land that we’re on.”Rebecca Alty

Other kinds of bilingual signs may appear in the not so distant future.

The city has reached out to both the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the North Slave Métis Alliance about names for future streets, said Alty, and the city is developing a plan for building names, too.

With files from Avery Zingel

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Publisher in Arctic Canada putting Inuit-language books online amidst COVID-19 closures, Eye on the Arctic 

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Can cross-border cooperation decolonize Sami language education?, Eye on the Arctic 

United States: Inuit leaders applaud UN move to designate International Decade of Indigenous Languages, Eye on the Arctic

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