A multi-week-long Rapid Word Collection workshop took place in 2020 to gather a collection of Haisla words.
Working with Scott Jeary, First Nations Education Foundation program director and Larry Hayashi of the Canadian Institute of Linguistics, the Haisla Nation’s education department used contemporary educational practices and innovative interactive technology to help the community preserve and revitalize their at-risk indigenous language.
Keen to pass on the language, Haisla speakers used this community-led program to harness existing efforts made by local language champions by crowdsourcing words, phrases, and stories.
“Once you have this new understanding to describe everything around, describe your life, describe the people, the way you feel, what you’re seeing, it’s like a whole new world view that you’re given,” said Megan Metz, a digitization and preservation technician for Haisla Nation, in a video made by the First Nations Education Foundation documenting the Rapid Word Collection Workshops.
During the project, elders also shared what they know and remember about their language while being professionally recorded. This helped produce an updated online Haisla Dictionary, a free mobile app and helped build a basis for future curricula development.
With only 80 fluent Haisla speakers left according to the documentary made by the First Nations Education Foundation about the project, the community hopes workshops like these will help contribute to the standardization of the Haisla language curriculum from pre-school to post-secondary courses.
Compiling prior work along with the workshop contributions, over 10,000 words and 5,000 recordings are now available online at webonary.org under the Haisla Talking Dictionary. Though it’s still a work in progress, you can scroll through the alphabet and find a media icon that you click and can hear the pronunciation of the words.
“I’m happy that my children and future generations will be built up with pride that we didn’t have as indigenous people,” said community cultural coordinator Teresa Windsor. “This work will help people gain the same confidence and sense of pride I have to be a Haisla person now; it’s something I didn’t grow up with.”
The First Nations Education Foundation has now well equipped the community to continue forward with the word project and hope to grow the language archive.
Funded by NIB Trust Fund, Rio Tinto, Ledcor, TC Energy, the project included a contribution from Haisla Nation Council.
Go to video.haisla.ca to see the full documentary.