Thursday, November 20, 2008


I'm here in "Winterpeg" for the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival. I've already met some French speakers and some Michif Speakers. I've been handing out some DVDs of the 4 Haidawood movies made to date. There is a showing of "Hoopla!" scheduled for noon on Sunday at the Fairmount Hotel, and waffles will be served.

I've been doing some research on the whole issue of language revitalization, which is a prime focus of the Haidawood Media Project. I came across this on Wikipedia:

Steps in reversing language shift

Joshua Fishman's model for reviving threatened (or dead) languages, or for making them sustainable, consists of an eight-stage process. Efforts should be concentrated on the earlier stages of restoration until they have been consolidated before proceeding to the later stages. The eight stages are as follows:

1. Acquisition of the language by adults, who in effect act as language apprentices (recommended where most of the remaining speakers of the language are elderly and socially isolated from other speakers of the language).
2. Create a socially integrated population of active speakers (or users) of the language (at this stage it is usually best to concentrate mainly on the spoken language rather than the written language).
3. In localities where there are a reasonable number of people habitually using the language, encourage the informal use of the language among people of all age groups and within families and bolster its daily use through the establishment of local neighbourhood institutions in which the language is encouraged, protected and (in certain contexts at least) used exclusively.
4. In areas where oral competence in the language has been achieved in all age groups encourage literacy in the language but in a way that does not depend upon assistance from (or goodwill of) the state education system.
5. Where the state permits it, and where numbers warrant, encourage the use of the language in compulsory state education.
6. Where the above stages have been achieved and consolidated, encourage the use of the language in the workplace (lower worksphere).
7. Where the above stages have been achieved and consolidated encourage the use of the language in local government services and mass media.
8. Where the above stages have been achieved and consolidated encourage use of the language in higher education, government etc.

This model of language revival is intended to direct efforts to where they are most effective and to avoid wasting energy trying to achieve the later stages of recovery when the earlier stages have not been achieved. For instance it is probably wasteful of effort to campaign for the use of the language on television or in government services if hardly any families are in the habit of using the language.

At this point, it looks like the best place to put our efforts is on creating content for adults to learn Haida.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nuu-chah-nulth Phrase Book & Dictionary

Apparently there is a Nuu-chah-nulth Phrase Book & Dictionary. It would be nice to develop a similar resource for the Haida language. I'm not sure if this already exists or not. I did find this online Alaskan Haida phrasebook. Here are some of the phrases:

Gyáa'aang uu íijang. It is a totem pole.

Tlúugyaa uu íijang. This is a canoe.

Xakwgyáa uu íijang. This is a halibut.

They have sound files associated with each phrase. Even I can hear some similarities and some differences with the Haida I've heard in Masset.


Well, a lot has happened since we finished work on "Yaani K'uuka" and "The Golden Spruce". I'm now working at Full Circle, a First Nations performance company that puts on original works of theater, trains aboriginal youth in theater, and puts on the Talking Stick Festival (Feb. 9-15 2009 in Vancouver).

I'm scheduled to show "Hoopla!" at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival on Saturday Nov. 22nd. I'm hoping I'll get to meet some people from APTN, the NFB, the Canada Council, and others who would be interested in funding Haidawood for a few years to help make the project sustainable.

There are also plans to show all the movies at a big Haida Feast at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Center on Friday November 29th here in town.

Tonight I've got plans to go to the Bill Reid Gallery to hear a talk about some of the old Haida villages by George MacDonald.