Language games a ton of fun

Graham Richard —

Haida language received another boost this summer as Ketchikan volunteers and organizers ran two culture camps during the first and second weeks of August.

The first camp included 50 kids from kindergarten through third grade with 30 older kids from the fourth through eighth grade attending the second camp. The camps were based out of Houghtaling Elementary School and Ketchikan High School.

During day trips to the longhouses at Saxman Village park and Totem Bight historical park students learned stories and songs with Haida speaker Julie Colburn and language teachers K’uyáang (Benjamin Young) and Skil Jaadei (Linda Schrack).

In addition, participants learned weaving, sewing, and formline design. This was the annual program’s biggest year, and organizer Katie Parrott says students who return each year show notable improvements in their language and other skills.

“It was a lot of work, these kids have a ton of energy,” she said. “We were really impressed with their abilities. They really, really enjoyed the games. Every day more and more students came.”

The camps culminated in a family celebration with student’s parents and families. Participants presented their crafts and projects and gifted them to family members. They also demonstrated their newfound and improved language-skills.

In coming years Parrott hopes to get kids out into community and the land to put the language within a strong context. “We want this to be a very site-based culture camp where we’re learning in the traditional context,” she explained. “There are so many harvesting opportunities. We want to get kids out on the land to get children to learn their language that way.”

The camps are open to everybody who wants to learn, so look out for next year’s culture camps in Ketchikan at the beginning of August!

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