Q&A with Xaad kil learner K’iijuuhlaas Nathaniel White

PC: Towastasin Stocker

How long have you been learning Xaad kil?
To some extent, I have been learning Xaad kil my entire life. For me, it was always just something I did, for as far as my memory goes.

What inspired you to start learning?
My inspiration to continue learning the language is based in thinking about the future of our people. I am concerned by the state of our culture and the next generation; the language is a big part of our culture. I see it as my responsibility to pursue the wisdom of our ancestors and to share that wisdom with those who will seek it one day.

Who did you learn from?
I have learned Xaad kil from many Elders who have gone, from my aunts and uncles, and from advanced learners eager to help in any way they can.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Some of the challenges I have faced in learning and sharing are: sticking to it, expanding my vocabulary, and carrying conversations. Nowadays we mostly speak English and it shows in the way we talk to one another. Sometimes we only say short phrases or make substitutions in select words. Rarely do we see two people exchanging a good back and forth only in Xaad kil. I have seen it before, however. It is such an inspiration to witness two people chatting without relying on English as a crutch.

What helps you to continue going?
Thinking about all the resources we have available now and how many people are motivated to start their learning journey drives me to push forward and continue on mine. It seems like we as a people grow stronger together when we are reaching for a common goal.

Do you have advice for people who want to learn?
Practice as much as you can. Apply your knowledge and the knowledge you have access to into your everyday life. Perform cultural practices in the language and never fear asking for help when you are stuck. There are plenty of people who have been in your place who would be more than happy to get you on the right track. And have fun! There is nothing more enjoyable in this world than cracking jokes when learning our language and bringing levity to your environment.


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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