Reviving a Lost Language of Canada Through Film – June 11, 2017 New York Times article by Catherine Porter

A June 11, 2017 New York Times article is entitled: “Reviving a Lost Language of Canada Through Film.”

The opening paragraphs read:

HIELLEN, British Columbia — Speaking Haida for the first time in more than 60 years looked painful. Sphenia Jones’s cheeks glistened with sweat, and her eyes clenched shut. She tried again to produce the forgotten raspy echo of the Haida k’, and again she failed. Then she smiled broadly.

“It feels so good,” Ms. Jones, 73, said. “Mainly because I can say it out loud without being afraid.”

Like 150,000 indigenous children across Canada, Ms. Jones was sent far from home to a residential school to be forcibly assimilated into Western culture. There, any trappings of her native culture were strictly forbidden. When a teacher caught Ms. Jones learning another indigenous language from two schoolmates, Ms. Jones said, the teacher yanked out three fingernails.

It worked: Ms. Jones spoke nothing but English, until recently, when she began learning her lines in the country’s first Haida-language feature film, “Edge of the Knife.”

[End of excerpt]


I spent some time living and travelling in Haida Gwaii in the early 1970s. It was among the formative experiences of my life. What I learned has stayed with me; I often thin about what it is, that I learned.

Click here for previous posts about Canada’s First Nations >

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