The Story of the Aboriginal Language Thank You Postcard

As a non-Aboriginal person living and working on unceded Coast Salish Nation Territory most often referred to as the Lower Mainland of BC, I offer my respect, recognition and gratitude to Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.  

Most North Americans, including myself, have very little understanding of the healthy and adaptable communities thriving across Canada for thousands of years long before "discovery” by Indigenous_language_thank_you_card_Spiritlink_RedWAY

Europeans. It is estimated that in 1942 about one-fifth of the world’s population - or 100 million people - were Native Americans. Carbon-dating shows established activities in BC’s Fraser Valley with sites over 9,000 years old. Each Nation had highly developed governance and social systems in place.

There are at least seven different, major First Nations language families in BC alone, each with their own governance structures, spiritual practices, oral traditions, educational systems, economic generators and resource planning.

Before 'European Contact', there was no Canada and no United States - just many independent Nations, much like how we picture Europe as made of different countries.   Some Nations were interdependent and worked closely together to share resources and traditional territories; others were independent of neighbouring ones. Because of North America's vast geological size and its natural boundaries like mountains and rivers, various completely distinct language families evolved.  

Canada is home to at least eleven distinct Aboriginal language families. There are at least seven different, major First Nations language families in BC alone, and within those there are at least 30 known regional dialects. These language families are as different as Spanish and English and Mandarin; so sometimes a common "trading language” was created. Together they form the rich tapestry of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit languages woven together in a wonderfully diverse yet complex history that many Canadians cannot easily comprehend. 

Thank you to those who helped create this postcard. I am honoured to have connected with many Aboriginal students, teachers, friends, volunteers, leaders, co-workers and Elders who share the common goal of creating stronger, safer communities.  

* As a teacher, I am always thrilled to learn from Aboriginal Youth Media Team Project participants and students whom I've met through various Aboriginal Women's Empowerment workshops, Aboriginal BEST entrepreneurship training sessions, and students at the Native Education College.   
* As a sales and marketing strategist who values social responsibility, I look for ethical creative ways to communicate more effectively and respectfully across cultures.

The intent of this postcard

My mother and Nana instilled in me the need to send thank you cards to people and organizations that do good deeds.  I often ask how to say "thank you” in the traditional language of people and groups with whom I connect. In 2002, I began to ask permission to share those words with others by creating a thank you postcard that could also be used as a fundraiser. It is only with the blessings of those Elders, language experts, Tribal councils, community members, and educators that this postcard was created. Thank you all for sharing your unique histories, cultural insights and generosity with me so that I could share a small part of that culture with others.

This postcard is intended to honour the diversity of Canada's Aboriginal languages. The front of the card has evolved over the years to highlight over 25 ways to say, "Thank You" using traditional phrases of Métis Peoples and Canada's First Nations. Included are languages from each region: the east (Mikmaq, Abenaki), the north (Gwich’in and Déné), the central (Huron, Mohawk, Ojibway, Cree), the plains (Blackfoot, Nakota, Stony), and west (Haida, Tlingit, Shuswap, Nisga’a, Tahltan, Gitsxan, Okanagan, Ktunaxa, Halq’emeylem, Bella Bella, Stat’imc, Sechelt/Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwak’wakala, Squamish and Musqueam). In 2009, a few American languages (Choctaw, Hawai'ian and Navajo) were included because of personal relationships with members of those Nations.

Because the US/Canadian border is a relatively new boundary imposed upon Native Americans by European colonizers, they seemed respectful additions to a card honouring Indigenous Peoples of North America.

There are many Aboriginal languages not shown on this card - the intent is not to exclude or neglect others. It's intent is simply to give a glimpse of the diversity of languages I have heard from students, friends and co-workers over the last 10 years that I have been actively listening. Some are ways to say thank you to a friend, others would be used to show gratitude to a group of strangers, and yet others might be used to thank your own family members.

About the design of the postcard

David C. Wilson is from the Choctaw Nation in the southern United States; he is the graphic artist who helped to design this beautiful card (and our company logo, shown below). He created an inspirational design that captures both the sense of gratitude and a spirit of connectedness in the light that emanates from the postcard’s center.

We chose a peaceful blue theme and used various complimentary fonts to highlight the differences in languages. The postcard back provides spaces for a stamp and room to write a personal note. It’s a quick, inexpensive, easy way to send a smile to mentors, friends, co-workers, speakers and suppliers.

A small paragraph explains that traditional languages often have distinct sound systems with unique pronunciations of vowels and consonants that do not translate exactly into English. The spelling or accents within traditional words and the Nations' names themselves may vary when written; often there are different written spellings for the same spoken word. We recommend asking for proper pronunciation and spelling directly from the Nation, organization, or person with whom you are building a relationship. As Elders and language teachers share specifics for English spelling, the postcards will be updated.

To honour my commitment to sustainability and socially responsible business practices, the first run of 5000 cards was printed on minimum 50% post-consumer-recycled paper. As revenue is generated, additional cards are printed through the Green Card program of www.Clubcard.ca. These postcards are printed with organic dyes on 100% post-consumer recycled, FSC-certified, 15.5 point uncoated matte double thick cardstock. Yep, they're as good for the environment as you can get.

Prices and ordering

Thank You postcards are only $2 each, but bulk purchases provide incredible discounts.  Save by ordering bulk purchases: buy 12 for $20, 30 for $50, 65 cards for $100, 200 cards for $280, or 500 cards for $675. Taxes are additional, where applicable.

50 cents from each card sold is set aside to host free workshops for Urban Aboriginal Youth every few months. By learning practical 21st Century literacy skills, Youth can use technology to work more effectively at home, school and work. Youth groups and organizations can purchase cards at a substantial discount to use as fundraisers for resale at events or in their office, as long as this story is told or made accessible to each person who may be selling the cards.

We all need to work together to create a kinder, inclusive, more informed and innovative world that recognizes, respects and promotes diversity.

I hope you’ll agree this card supports that vision by honouring Aboriginal Peoples and their distinct languages.

In honour and respect,
Kristin Kozuback, M.Ind.Ed., C.S.P.
Spiritlink Communications
E-mail spiritlinking@gmail.com  
Phone/text: +1-604-783-8304 to place your orders today.

Order in advance for gifts for your next conference. year-end wrap up or special event.        

Thank YOU.