Fallon Crosby has a dream — to help her daughter Bella learn Haida, the language of their ancestors.
“Some people say, ‘How can you say you are Haida if you don’t speak your language?’ So it’s really, really important that we succeed in doing this,” Crosby said.
But Haida is an endangered language. There are fewer than two dozen elders left who are fluent speakers of Skidegate Haida, one of two dialects on Haida Gwaii.
Members of the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) meet every morning in a longhouse where they play a traditional game similar to bingo.
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“I come here cause it is wonderful for my soul,” Betty Richardson said. “It’s like medicine for my soul.”
If Richardson hadn’t been raised in her Haida-speaking grandmother’s household, she said she wouldn’t be fluent.
“My mother went to residential school for eight years so she was taught not to speak her language,” Richardson said.
It’s an all-too-familiar story: residential schools robbed generations of First Nations of their language and culture.
Now, elders like Richardson, are diligently recording Haida words and phrases for a free app designed to teach the language.
They are also recording stories and books for children in their community.
While young Bella is being exposed to Haida in elementary school, her mom is studying it at university.
They are learning and growing together.
“Hopefully one day we will both be fluent,” Crosby said. “That’s the dream, I guess, that’s the goal.”
– With files from Linda Aylesworth