Friday, August 18, 2006

Canadian Indian Language in British Columbia being Revived

Ditidaht village, a Canadian Indian Native community of 210 people, can only be reached from Port Alberni, British Columbia by a 50-kilometer trek along dangerous logging trails. In spite of the Ditidaht's isolation, outside forces have pushed their language toward extinction. With only 8 speakers left, the Canadian Indian Ditidaht language is on the verge of vanishing, along with half of the languages now spoken around the world.

"I was about 7 when my mother died, and my father died two years later," said Christine Edgar, a Ditidaht elder who speaks Ditidaht in her head, but struggles to get the sounds out of her mouth. "All of a sudden I no longer heard the language. There was just nobody to talk to."

Now the Ditidaht are fighting back. In 2003, the band council approved construction of the $4,200,000 Ditidaht Community School so K-12 students could learn their language and culture. The village is amazed by the program's success.

"We're doing whatever we can to document what's left," said Elsie Jeffrey, the language co-coordinator for the 70 students. "We've put out CDs, DVDs; we're working on digitizing the language on www.FirstVoices.ca."

Last year, Selina Atleo became the school's first high-school graduate. The 19-year-old now speaks more Ditidaht than her mother and assists in the daycare language-immersion program. Mike Folrtescue, a linguistics professor, is compiling a 500-page Ditidaht and Wakashan dictionary.


To see wonderful Native artwork from British Columbia, see Canadian Indian Art.

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