A partnership with Xaad Kil Nee and Skidegate Haida Immersion Program, and a grant from First Peoples Cultural Council, created the three-day Haida Language Conference on February 10 – 12, 2020 in Kxeen. The agenda featured a prayer for opening and closing each day, round of introductions, hearing from the learners, what each community is doing in the language, First Peoples Cultural Council, Immersion, Orthography, language games and singing. The theme for the conference was kindness.
Gaw Tlagee Xaad kil: Kangudanga
Xaayda kil: K’ang.guudang
Alaskan Xaad kil: K’angwdaanga
Day 1: February 10
Even though the Skidegate Masters game took place that sing.Gaay morning, the turnout was good for the start of the gathering with learners, mentors, and emerging speakers. There were representatives from Gaw Tlagee Old Massett, HlGaagilda Skidegate, Kxeen, and Alaska. The opening sing.Ga suu prayer was done by Dr. Jiixa Gladys Vandal.
With the sing.Ga suu completed, everyone was invited to introduce themselves to open the conference. Personal introductions usually include: Xaayda/Xaad and English names, and where the speaker is from. For this gathering, the language community was also asked to share what they have learned or what brings them joy.
“I saw a memory from 10 years ago, there was a language conference and there the language teachers were worried the Haida language was going to be lost.” – Colleen Williams
With the round of introductions completed, Gulkiihlgad Marianne Ignace presented on behalf of K’uyaang Ben Young for the work done at Xantsii Naay, a language nest in Hydaburg. Xantsii Naay opened in September 2018 and is operated by the Hydaburg School District. It is a four-hour long immersion preschool program for 3-5-year olds. The presentation included a video demonstrating how K’uyaang interacts with the students in Xaad kil and the students.
After a few more activities and fun, a series of questions were offered to facilitate discussion based on learners. This “check-in” with everyone helped to build comradery and share experiences within the language community on what worked, what didn’t and tools available Xaayda/Xaad kil learners.
Day 2: February 11
First Peoples Cultural Council (FPCC) started the sing.Gaay with a presentation that spoke to the language supports and programs offered by FPCC. Many participants were interested in the Silent Speakers Program, funding for immersion camps and finding out ways FPCC has and can support language revitalization.
With half hour left for the sing.Gaay, a panel of three young learners Gwaliga Hart, K’uuk Skujuuwas Darlene White, and Skil Jaadee White discussed their time at T’aalan Stl’ang in summer 2019. Nearly 40 participants took part in an immersion camp with mentors from Gaw Tlagee and Alaska participated in. They described that some of the learners were anxious to be in an immersion setting, but after 4 days, they were craving more. At the gathering, everyone agreed there should be more immersion camps, including all the dialects.
In the sintaajiGa, the Earth sing.Ga suu “We” video started the afternoon. Acknowledging support from SHIP, Jaskwaan Bedard and Skil Jaadee, this 2-minute film includes the Earth sing.Ga suu in both Xaad and Xaayda kil with a message of yahguudang respect for all people and the lands and waters.
The Earth Prayer is available on YouTube, view the video and subscribe to Council of the Haida Nation
Day 3: February 12
Kihlguulans Christian White started the third day with a sing.Ga suu. The focus on the final day was community updates from programs in Gaw Tlagee and HlGaagilda in the sing.Gaay.
In the sintaajiGa and with the learners’ contributions, the group of language advocates, learners and mentors identified topics for future work. These included: more immersion camps, engaging youth, a shared orthography, and online resources. Even though obstacles and concerns were identified in the three days, the common goal was encouraging more Xaayda/Xaad kil in the nation and communities.