Q&A with Xaayda kil learner Skaanas Denver Cross

PC: Jags Brown

How long have you been learning Xaayda kil?
I have been learning the Skidegate Haida language for most of my life. Since I was a young kid, my Nanaay Irene would speak Haida to me, it wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for me to learn body parts, seafoods, and other basic vocabulary.

What inspired you to start learning? 
After my nanaay passed away I felt sort of guilty for not learning enough from her, so I started spending my summers with Aunty Ildagwaay Bea Harley doing full immersion.

Who did you learn from? 
I learned from my Nanaay Irene, Ildagwaay, and SGaanajaadsk’yaagaXiigangs Kathleen “Golie” Hans when I was in high school. For my grade 12 year, I spent every Monday at the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP).

What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Spelling. In those summers I spent with Ildagwaay, she really focused on teaching me to spell the language and understand our orthography. Technology is another challenge, at SHIP we have computers that will stop working unexpectedly, hard drives fail, and Luu Gaahlandaay Kevin Borserio still uses CDs, which is old technology (Skaanas responds with a smirk).

What helps you to continue going? 
The Elders at SHIP and their dedication to the documentation and revitalization of our language keep me going. Spending every day with them at SHIP is what inspires me to continue to learn and do what I can, while I can.

Do you have advice for people who want to learn? 
Sit down with an Elder and listen. Commit and focus and even listen for an hour. We have a pocket book guide that is very handy. It is helpful to study the orthography and pronunciations in that guide. If you can learn to read and spell the Skidegate Haida language, the rest will come with time and hard work.


This article is published in the recent Haida Laas featuring Haida language speakers, learners and advocates. View or download the full edition here.

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