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Speaking Haida: a Source of Power and a Journey of Healing

“I always get pulled into work that I feel passionate about, and I was pulled into this language work.”

Language is an expression of culture, and there once was a time when the colonial narrative was that Haida culture was dead. With less than five fluent speakers of the dialect left in the world, Jaskwaan Amanda Bedard’s life work is devoted to reawakening the Haida language.

The language of Haida Gwaii is as unique as the land it comes from—there’s nothing else like it in the world. Being a language unto itself is a source of pride for the Haida people, but it also means they need a unique way of teaching it.

With a long and complex history, there was a time when the Haida language went through a quiet period, but through the efforts of elders, the community, and educators like Jaskwaan, the Haida people are overcoming their language loss in new and incredible ways.

As a child, Jaskwaan was always interested in languages and the origin of words. Today, that passion for language has evolved into work that has her writing a new curriculum for how Indigenous languages are taught in the classroom.

Jaskwaan didn’t grow up speaking Haida, and first started learning when her eldest daughter was born. Having had her own language learning journey, which she describes as one of the hardest things she’s ever done, Jaskwaan is using her experience to make the journey easier and more accessible for her community and children.

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