Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Gwaii

It's been a while since I've posted. I am now working for Northwest Community College in the capacity of Director of Education for Haida Gwaii. I've been in the position for about 6 months, learning about how the College operates, and working on translating ideas into real world programs. NWCC has 3 small campuses on Haida Gwaii: my home campus at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, a campus in the Queen Charlotte Community Centre, and a campus in Masset near the old hospital. I am especially interested in finding ways for the College to help support the Haida language effort here. NWCC has developed a Haida language curriculum, and I have secured some funds to adapt that curriculum for the Skidegate dialect. My hope is to offer a Haida language course in the Spring of 2012 in the Skidegate dialect here at the Haida Heritage Centre. In Masset they have a strong language group, but there is a great need for Haida language curriculum here in Skidegate, and my hope is that the College can help meet that need.

Last year I applied for funds from the Canada Council to make another set of movies in partnership with Xaad Kihlgaa Hl Suu.u (the Haida language group in Masset). That application was successful. It's been a challenge to find time to make the movies now that I have got a very busy, fun, and challenging job. I have been looking for ways to bring the project within the College (so I can work on it as part of my job, and leverage the resources of the College to support the language effort here on-island), possibly by running the project as a course through NWCC's school of Workforce Training and Continuing Studies. If successful, the course could eventually be moved through the Education Council and become a university credit course within the First Nation Studies Program. This would allow students to get university credit for learning to make Aboriginal language movies. It would also mean that other Aboriginal communities within NWCC's service area (including the Tlingit, Tahltan, Nisga'a, Gitxsan, Tsimshian, Wet'suwet'en, and Haisla people) would have an opportunity to learn to make their own language movies in support of their own efforts to preserve and promote their language and culture.

There are some other interesting language efforts happening here on Haida Gwaii. On July 29th, there will be a book launch of a book of photography entitled "That Which Makes Us Haida: The Haida Language". The book features photos of prominent Haida community members involved in the language effort. The pictures were taken by Farah Nosh, whom I've met a few times back in the day up in Masset. Another interesting project is the Skidegate Education Council's decision to fund a Haida language App for the iPad. I very much appreciate their efforts to use technology to engage youth and make the language accessible. One day I'd like to make a Haida language movie here in Skidegate. In the meantime, there are tentative plans for the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) to dub the existing Haidawood movies into the Skidegate dialect.

I myself still only know a few words of Haida, mostly in the Masset dialect. Now that I've got a baby (Journey James, who is now one and a half), a partner (the lady Shannon) and a busy job, it seems to be more challenging than ever to learn the language. I am hoping to take a course. The good news is that the language is written phonetically, so in principle, once you know how to sound out the syllables, it should be possible to access the written material that seems to be available (including a phrase book put out by SHIP). I guess we'll see.

1 comment:

tarapurnima said...

I really appreciate your efforts. I am involved in the same kind of thing - working with indigenous people in India to animate their folk tales, with indigenous language versions too. You can check out the website

My email is

It would be interesting to hear more about your work.