EDITORIAL: Events give a voice to the future

Indigenous communities in the Alberni Valley are reclaiming their languages

Indigenous communities across British Columbia—and including the Alberni Valley—are reclaiming their languages after generations of colonialism that sought to take them away.

It is not insignificant that the day before Tseshaht First Nation celebrated the closure of the residential school, North Island College announced it would offer tuition-free Nuu-chah-nulth language classes.

Within a day, the class was 50 percent booked.

Nuu-chah-nulth classes are also part of a new Aboriginal College Pathway introduced at NIC in Port Alberni to support Indigenous youth as they start their post-secondary education. Language is a key to the pilot project, which prepares students for post-secondary success.

“Learning Nuu-chah-nulth is not just about learning the language,” says NIC elder-in-residence Jane Jones.

“Something happens inside people once they realize the freedom to speak their language openly.”

Elders in the Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations communities have strived to keep their languages alive for younger generations.

The efforts of Hupacasath fluent speakers such as the late Jessie Hamilton and Edward (Tat) Tatoosh from the early 2000s have taken root, and are now flourishing. Efforts such as the publication of several language books and the creation of a Nuu-chah-nulth curriculum that was developed for Haahuupayak School.

Residential schools took away children’s voices. Celebrations such as the one on Aug. 2, and the creation of a Nuu-chah-nulth language class, are giving those voices back.

— Alberni Valley News

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