A local coffee roaster will now feature labels in Tłı̨chǫ and Inuktitut on their bags.

Specialty coffee microroaster, Barren Ground Coffee currently retails in Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, Hay River, Fort Providence and Inuvik, but has plans to expand into Nunavut. The Old Town-based company must adhere to federal food regulations, including bilingual labelling if they want to retail outside of the Northwest Territories.  As they have updated some of their labelling to reflect French, Barren Ground Coffee has also included two Indigenous languages.

“As we hope to soon be retailing in Nunavut, we wanted to feature Inuktitut on our packaging,” says Eric Binion, co-founder of Barren Ground Coffee, in a media release.

“In addition, there are over 2,000 people who speak Tłı̨chǫ in the NWT, and NWT Community Survey data shows that that number is increasing. We took note of that. Ideally we would have all eleven NWT official languages, but for now we are limited to a small label space on our hand stamped bags”.

The use of Indigenous languages in the NWT is on the decline, going against the national trend. Just this year, the territorial government announced an Indigenous Languages Action Plan, designed to reverse this decline and improve access to services offered in the territory’s nine Indigenous official languages.

Barren Ground Coffee says they recognize the importance of language revitalization and sustaining languages in the north.

“As a northern business, we will do what we can to make local languages visible,” says Binion. “We praise any other companies who do business in the north that recognize our eleven official languages and make an effort to include them.”

Barren Ground Coffee worked with artist Andrew Hall and local translators to finalize the text.

“We are not the first commercial food operation to include Indigenous language labelling, but we would make a safe bet that we are certainly the first coffee roasting company!” Binion says.

With the new labelling, Barren Ground Coffee has set in motion plans to begin retailing at partner locations in Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, and Baker Lake and hopes to be on shelves by early 2019.