The work of the Tahltan Language and Culture Program is guided by the Tāłtān Language and Culture Framework (see figure below). Based on her doctoral research, Edōsdi | Judy Thompson created this framework to highlight what needs to be done in order to revitalize and reclaim our language, with the ultimate result of there being more Tāłtān speakers.
Created by Edōsdi / Judy Thompson Designed by Ts̱ēmā Igharas
As the director of the Tahtlan Language and Culture Program, Edōsdi is responsible for guiding the program to stay true to the vision statement Didene ekune mehōdihi eku desijihi (All Tahltan people are living the Tahltan way of life.) The main goal of this vision statement is to create safe and supportive environments for all Tāłtān speakers – new learners, second language speakers, silent speakers, and first language speakers
Our focus is on four areas (Governance, Programs, Documentation, Training and Professional Development) which are all based on the health, healing, and wellbeing of our people. Below we’ll share a bit more about what the different areas entail.
Tāłtān Language & Culture Framework
Tāłtān Language revitalization is governed by Dah Dzāhge Nodes̱ide (DDN), the Tahltan Language and Culture Council. DDN is a council of Tahltan speakers and teachers who direct many important decisions about the language department. You can learn more about the DDN here. The main function of this council is to maintain the integrity of Tāłtān language but they also provide translations and expertise to other Tahltan organizations; and expand on the Tāłtān lexicon (i.e. the vocabulary of Tāłtān language)
Two key elements within Governance are Research and Communication. Staying up-to-date with and contributing to research on best practices for indigenous language revitalization is important – not just for our language but for other indigenous communities around the world who are also striving to reclaim their language and culture from colonial influences. The Language and Culture Program is involved with ongoing research projects including Language Nests, Language learning materials, and documentation practices. Updates on publications can be found by searching within News Updates. Communication includes the team’s initiatives to maintain Community Support for Tāłtān and for the people working hard on the language. We also aim to expose all Tahltans to their language in as many ways as possible. Communication also includes promoting Tāłtan and the important language revitalization work outside of the Tahltan community at conferences, meetings, and with the general public through radio and print news interviews, etc.
Another key area of revitalizing Tāłtān is to offer language programs for everyone! To ensure that our Tahltan language remains relevant, our Language team has adopted multiple ways to introduce our language to new learners, as well as assist those who are currently learning. This includes providing resources using modern technology as well as offering in-person, intergenerational learning environments. There are various programming initiatives currently supporting Tāłtān language learners such as evening community language sessions, Post-secondary college programs, and Language Nests
The Language Nest program targets our 0-4 year olds and provides infants and children home-like exposure to the language through total immersion with Tahltan Elders and Nest staff. It is a Full- immersion setting meaning there is no English spoken by Elders or Staff while in the Nest. You can learn more about Tahltan Language Nests here. This program encourages parents to learn as well.
The Language program is involved with creating a Language Curriculum Framework with the Stikine School District (SD 87) to support the Tahltan classes and teachers in the schools in Tahltan territory. Tāłtān language has been offered in all three schools in the territory from kindergarten to Grade 12, but it is not an accredited subject at this time. With the completion of this Curriculum Framework, students will be able to take Tāłtān as their language requirement to apply to University in Canada.
To serve adults, there is a college accredited Diploma program with the University of Victoria. The students in this program are increasing their proficiency in Tāłtān by learning from teachers and Tāłtān speaking mentors and Elders so they can become teachers and advocates for the language.
Documentation is concerned with making resources to support current and future projects and learners. This includes archiving old and new recordings so that we can learn from fluent speakers and Tahltan knowledge keepers, as well as transcribing and translating recordings to help make language learning materials for learners. We are continuously making and archiving audio recordings, some of which can be accessed here. Documentation also includes working on Dictionaries and Teaching Grammars to support language learning.
Training and Professional Development
It is important that all people involved with Tāłtān language are continuously involved in training and professional development to help them be the best learners and teachers they can be. This includes Community Training for Tahltan organizations, Teacher Training for language teachers, Post-secondary opportunities for teachers and learners of the language, Conferences on Indigenous Language revitalization, and Networking with others working within Indigenous language revitalization.
Healing, Health and Well-being
Acknowledging and supporting your healing, health and wellbeing are key to language learning. Learning and reconnecting to your language can be very healing for many people as it contributes to your identity as a Tahltan. Nourishing your health and wellbeing while learning is also important as it is a challenging thing to learn any language, let alone your ancestors’ tongue which they used describe the world they had lived in since time immemorial. In many cases, even in order to begin to learn Tāłtān, some healing is needed. There are many, often traumatic, subtle and not-so-subtle events and practices that have caused Tahltans to need to (re-)learn our language in the first place.
In partnership with the Peoples Haven (Tahltan Band), a new position is being created connected to Language and Healing. Sonia Dennis will take on the position of Youth Program Coordinator, which will support all aspects of Tahltan language and cultural knowledge transfer and planning pertaining to Tahltan youth and their families. The goal of this position is to promote cultural awareness, safety and competency, while promoting healing and reconciliation.
Be kind to yourself, and to your fellow learners and teachers. We’re in this together!