William ‘Wa’ Wasden

Kwakwala song rings in season

Wagalus students sing out a Christmas classic with a twist.

PORT HARDY—Listeners of The Port 1240AM Wednesday morning may not have recognized the words, but the Christmas song — and the enthusiasm of the singers — was unmistakable.

A group of 16 students from Wagalus School in Fort Rupert descended on the radio station Tuesday afternoon and recorded their version of Jingle Bells. What made the song unique is that is was sung entirely in Kwakwala, the native language of the Kwakiutl and other Kwakwaka’wakw peoples.

“We’re here to encourage the language revitalization that’s been brought to our communities by the language champions, by the elders who are still with us, speaking the language,” said Davida Hunt, daughter of longtime language teacher Mary Hunt. “The children of Wagalus School have a real good sense of belonging to the community and a connection to the land, through language.

The children were taught the song and directed by hereditary chief William “Wa” Wasden, who stepped in to help with language education this year after Mary Hunt retired at age 77.

“They like to sing,” said Wasden. “They’d rather sing than just talk language.”

The song and an interview with Davida Hunt were recorded Dec. 17 and aired the following morning. It was part of a larger series of performances by the children, including one Dec. 16 during the band’s Christmas dinner and another, by preschoolers, Dec. 18.

“The children have such a good, positive feeling when they’re singing in Kwakwala,” said Hunt. “Last night at the Kwakiutl Band dinner you could feel the whole room lift up with the singing of this song.”

Hunt told program host Cody Malbeuf the students were taught the most literal translation of Jingle Bells from English, adding a degree of to the instruction. And they learned the long version.

“FYI, not a lot of people sing the verses like they did,” said Wasden. “Most people just sing the chorus.”

Hunt is one of several local students in an aboriginal language revitalization program run through the University of Victoria. The introduction of Kwakwala to elementary and preschool-aged children is an effort by the “language champions” to stave off extinction of the language with the passing of the few elders left who speak fluently.

A five-month language revitalization planning program was kicked off in Fort Rupert last month, and will include events in the new year on the Quatsino and Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw reserves.

Program coordinator said last week’s performance by the Wagalus students was a tribute to Mary Hunt, who has championed the preservation of the Kwakwala language for decades. New warriors, like her daughter and like Wasden, are picking up that mantle.

 

Just Posted

Climate change panel hosted at North Island Secondary School

The panel focused on combating fear, finding solutions, and encouraging youth.

People’s Party of Canada plan to have a candidate in the North Island-Powell River riding

Elections Canada formally recognized the North Island—Powell River PPC Association

NVIATS takes over NIEFS space in Thunderbird Mall

“We were approached by NIEFS, they’re going to be downsizing”

Port Hardy Reigns compete in Nanaimo at Island Championships

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity for our youth in Port Hardy”

Derina Harvey Band – Heartfelt, Energetic, Celtic rock comes to Port Hardy

Front-woman Derina Harvey leads this Celtic-rock act, who offer an authentic east-coast experience.

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

Sports Talk with Tyson: First round of the season at Seven Hills Golf and Country Club

“I usually golf with my best friend Brian, and it’s always entertaining whenever we hit the links”

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Island-born Snowbirds pilot enjoying homecoming in skies over Comox

Logan Reid once stood clinging onto the fence outside the Comox Air… Continue reading

Attack on student in Courtenay ‘way more than bullying’, says mom

A Comox Valley mother said “it was way more than bullying” at… Continue reading

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: A Cluxewe sunset

“I’ll walk the beach when the sun is just starting to emit that warm afternoon glow”

Most Read