FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 28, 2018
Dän Kʼe Kwänjē Ghäkenīdän: We are Learning Our Language
CAFN Adult Immersion Program Classes Begin
Dakwäkäda (Haines Junction) – Classes are in session for Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) Citizens enrolled in CAFN’s brand new adult Dákwänjē (Southern Tutchone) language immersion program.
The 10 students in the program, titled Dän Kʼe Kwänjē Ghäkenīdän: We are Learning Our Language, began class on the land this month. The students spent their first full week of studies at a harvest camp near the Aishihik Road in order to start learning in the best possible setting and frame of mind.
“This is a turning point for our people and a critical investment in keeping Dän K’e – our way – alive and vibrant now and for generations to come,” said Dän Nätthe Ada Kaaxnox (Chief Steve Smith). “These 10 students are our future language teachers and have an essential role in maintaining our identity as Shadhäla, Äshèyi yè kwädän (Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people). They are committing the next two years of their lives to make this a reality.”
Dän Kʼe Kwänjē Ghäkenīdän is a full immersion program rooted in hands-on, experiential learning. Regular classes run from September to June each school year and the first students will graduate in 2020. The program is based in the language classroom at Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction and students will also practice the language on the land and through traditional activities. Land-based camps are also planned for the summer to keep students’ language skills fresh.
The 10 students in the program are: Nigel Boyle, Earl Darbyshire, Elizabeth Gladue, Liza Jacobs, Heather Jim, Marianne Joe, Sheila Kushniruk, Natane Primozic, Sarina Primozic and Marcus Sparvier. The students are funded by CAFN as language apprentices so they can fully participate in the immersion program without trying to hold down a full-time job at the same time.
After their first week in the language on the land, students shared their reactions:
“Łų tlą tashanidhį, I’m so excited. I can’t believe I have this opportunity to learn on the land and spend time with Äshäw. In just five days I was able to tell a story in Dän K’e and translate it back into English.” – Sarina Primozic
“Learning from Elders, listening to stories, lessons in the stories, learning to set the fish net and being on the boat feels more engaged and connected, being on the land, relaxing and not stressful.” – Marcus Sparvier
“It was a big refresher. After taking Southern Tutchone from K-12, I can hear the familiar sounds, and it feels easier to pick up again, a lot of reconnection.” – Nigel Boyle
“It was overwhelming at first, going straight into Dän K’e. I got by with the basics – äju, àghāy, äjù yinji.”- Liza Jacobs
“It was good to start out on the land this way. The first week all students are becoming friends and doing group work together. It’s a good group to be with.” – Heather Jim
“It feels really good to learn, more one-on-one and get really in there and not just stand at the back. I had fun with the Elders and really enjoyed listening to their stories.”- Natane Primozic
Khâsha, a CAFN Citizen and language teacher, developed the curriculum and is delivering the program full-time. He is joined by instructors Kalx’òkw (Mary Jane Legér) and Chughäla (Elder Lorraine Allen).
In March 2018, the CAFN Special General Assembly passed a resolution to support the program with up to $1 Million in funds from the Champagne Aishihik Trust. The resolution states:
“Our culture is rooted in our languages and our languages are embedded with traditional knowledge and spirituality, as taught to us by our Elders. Our words themselves contain values, spirituality and principles of respect within them. Knowing the words and the languages instills the ways we live on the land, with the animals and how we treat each other.”
For more information please visit CAFN.ca/dakwanje-immersion-program .
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