Over time, colonialism attempted to stamp out Indigenous culture in Canada, resulting in dwindling numbers or extinction of many Indigenous languages. Of the over 60 Indigenous languages in Canada, many of them have very few speakers left, or are considered on the verge of extinction.
Because of this, merely speaking an Indigenous language can be seen as a political act.
Can you speak your traditional language?
The Haida language, or Xaat Kíl, is the ancestral language of the Haida people who live off the west coast of British Columbia and on the Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. There are two main dialects of the language, divided by north and south. Northern Haida is split into Alaskan Haida and Masset; southern Haida mainly consists of Skidegate Haida.
Haida is a highly endangered language, with only a few dozen people able to speak it and most Haida speakers are over 70. However, young Haida people have a growing interest in learning the language and revitalization efforts are taking place right now.
There are a number of online resources to help on this path. The following are a few of these resources to help you pick up some Haida language skills:
Sealaska Heritage: the Sealaska Heritage Institute is a non-profit that works to promote and preserve Southeast Alaskan Native culture. The organizatin’s site has a number of helpful Haida resources, including an Alaskan Haida dictionary and phrasebook.
Language Geek: On the Language Geek Haida page, there’s tons of information about each dialect and what their consonants and vowels look like. The website also offers text examples and keyboards you can download to your computer.
First Voices: The site features many online tools for learning a number of B.C.-based Indigenous languages. Check out its Skidegate Haida Language app, which hosts a bilingual dictionary and phrase collection.
Native Languages: This website contains 20 basic Haida words and their English and French counterparts. The site also includes picture dictionaries with the Haida words for a number of animals, body parts and colours.
You can find another online Haida dictionary and translator, courtesy of Freelang, here.
Do you know of any other resources for learning Haida? Share in the comments below!