PORT HARDY—For the second time in as many months, listeners to the Port 1240 AM were treated to a brief Kwakwala language broadcast Monday, courtesy of an eager group of youngsters from Quatsino’s Kak’ot’lats’i School.
Just as with the December singing of a Kwakwala-language version of Jingle Bells by students from Wagalus School in Fort Rupert, this week’s presentation came through a five-month language revitalization program designed to study and formulate programs to preserve the cultural and language traditions of First Nations peoples across the North Island.
The 16 elementary-school-aged youngsters from Kak’ot’lats’i recited a welcome poem in Kwakwala, followed by a goodbye song in the Gut’sa dialect that is distinct to the Quatsino people.
“We start off our mornings with the entire school reciting the morning poem around the front foyer,” said Dawn Willie. “Then, the goodbye song, the hala’kasla, is sung after every cultural language class.”
The language revitalization program is being directed by Sandra Sewid, who is tasked with touring each of the reserves in the area and researching and promoting the state of language knowledge and instruction. The five-month program is scheduled for completion in March with a feast event bringing together each of the Port Hardy-area bands.
“Sandra came around to see how much we have going for language revitalization,” said Willie. “Right now, I know our principal really does want, in the future, to go towards (language) immersion in the school.”
Willie said the Quatsino reserve today has only perhaps 14 speakers fluent in the Gut’sa or Kwakwala tongue.
“Our speakers are getting up there in age.”
She said students at Kak’ot’lats’i get a half-hour of cultural or language instruction each day, courtesy of cultural teacher Ryan Nelson. Nelson composed the goodbye song performed at the radio station last week for broadcast Monday.
Sewid will continue to work on the Quatsino reserve before moving to Tsulquate to work with the Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’xw First Nations. The program wrap-up event date and location will be announced in the coming months.