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NIWHKINIC, NIWH'IT'ËN: OUR LANGUAGE, OUR WAYS
Witsuwit’en Family Based Mentor-Apprentice Program 2020-21  

Witsuwit’en bï yets’olhdic!

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Witsuwit’en Language and Culture Society has restructured its adult language learning program, funded by First Peoples Cultural Council, to ensure the safety of Elders and students. We will not offer our regular in-class adult program this year.
 
We are pleased to announce our family based mentor-apprentice program (MAP). Three teams have been funded!
 
The program's goal is to support: 

  • Family based MAP teams – an individual living in a family unit with or having formed a “bubble” with a fluent speaker who are committed to learning Witsuwit'en through immersion (no English)

  • Keep fluent speakers safe, while support language revitalization efforts. Each team had to have a COVID-19 safety plan for their fluent speaker.


Application is now closed.
 
Note: Our office will continue to be closed to the public until further notice. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Our program's main focus is to reestablish the natural language learning patterns that were disrupted by colonization, residential school and the Sixties Scoop. To do that, we must empower Witsuwit'en adults to support their children and grandchildren's learning.

We initiated two key programs in 2017 in partnership with the Witsuwit'en Child and Family Centre (KWES - Kyah Wiget Education Society) and Witset First Nation:  a Witsuwit'en language nest (daycare immersion program) and an adult program for the parents of children attending the language nest. We also offered 2 additional classes in hopes of reaching other parents and family groupings.

That first year was funded by the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) ($100,000). In 2018,  we were able to secure funding for next 3 years ($100,000 per year) through First Peoples Cultural Council. 

Witsuwit’eN Language Program2019-2020
Niwhkinic, Niwh'it'ëN: OUr Language, OUr Ways 

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  • We offer 3 adult language classes to over 40 students - 90 percent of whom are in their third year. Classes are held Tuesdays (Witset – Language Nest Parents - LEVEL 3), Wednesdays (Smithers – Off-Yin Tah Witsuwit’en - LEVEL 3) and Thursdays (Witset Community - LEVEL 1).​ NOTE: ALL OUR CLASSES ARE FULL.

  • The program’s uses the "First Nations Language Essentials" (FNLE) curriculum (developed by Kathryn Michell – Chief Atahm School) piloted by Witsuwit’en Language Teacher Amanda Lewis at Witset Elementary School. It introduces high frequency words using images and Total Physical Response (TPR) methods of teaching. TPR learning is interactive and uses physical movement with the spoken language to develop memory retention.​ Using the FNLE curriculum in the language nest, elementary school and adult programs, ensures that everyone is learning together, using a common language set, which provides greater opportunity to practice.

  • Teaching tools and methods from the "Where Are Your Keys" (WAYK) program (successfully used to revitalise the Squamish language) have also been incorporated. WAYK focuses on using physical gestures with language, scenarios and games to teach language through prolonged periods of immersion.​

  • We have  developed many of our own activities and ideas to promote immersion-based language learning.

  • We teach survival phrases so that students can lead their own learning outside of class.

  • Classes also provide cultural activities (ex. hide pouch making, mini-button blankets).

  • We offer one language camp a year in the summer.

  • In 2018, we piloted an office mentorship with Witset First Nation office employees to help them provide Elders with service in the language and hopefully reach more Witsuwit'en families. The mentorship is now in its' second year. We teach job specific language so they can begin using Witsuwit’en daily at work.

  • In summer of 2018, we drafted a Witsuwit'en adaptation of the FNLE. We continue to draft chapters in Witsuwit'en. ​

ADULT WITSUWIT'EN LANGUAGE PROGRAM 2018-2019

  • We started with a small group of children ages 0-3 years old and 2 fluent speakers in the Witsuwit'en Child and Family Centre in Witset. We are expanding this year to include children between 3-4 years old.

  • This program is possible because of the WLCS and KWES’s partnership. WLCS’s Role: Proposal writing, shared financial tracking, monitoring and reporting. KWES’s Role: Program management and financial responsibility.

  • Staff who are not fluent in the language are also taking part in our Adult language program.

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Witsuwit'en Language Nest staff learning the language with language teacher Amanda Lewis to help fluent speakers create full immersion. 

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Digitizing THE WORDS
OF OUR ELDERS

  • Through funding from the Indigitization Program in 2016 and 2018, WLCS summer students and staff participated in a training program on digitising audio-cassettes. We have since begun digitising recording of our Elders from the 1970s to 2000s to preserve them from deterioration and to make them accessible again. In our first year, we digitised just over 100 cassette recordings. In our second year, we were able to digitize 50 more. These recordings are now backed up in hard drives and preserved in the WLCS's archive, as well as at the Northern BC Archives ( UNBC) in Prince George. These recordings will contribute to the creation of future language and culture resources.

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Witsuwit'en Transcription

  • Through funding from the Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI - First Peoples Culture Council and Government of Canada), the WLCS has begun a multi-year Witsuwit'en transcription project to draw out Witsuwit'en language, particularly older words and expressions, from the audio recordings in its archive, as well as the history and stories they contain. The project ensures future access and use to this invaluable information for future curriculum development. This is critical considered that Witsuwit'en language loss is outpacing the documentation that has taken place thus far.

Witsuwit’en History Book

Niwhts’ide’nï Hibi’it’ën, The Ways of Our Ancestors:  Witsuwit’en History & Culture Throughout the Millennia

By Mélanie H. Morin

This textbook was created as a result of cooperation and collaboration between School District #54 (Bulkley Valley), researchers, educators, and Witsuwit'en community members and organizations to teach future generations about Witsuwit'en history and culture.  The Witsuwit'en Language and Culture Society based out of Witset (Moricetown) has reviewed and approved this work in its entirety. 

It is available for purchase at Interior Stationary (Mills), Mountain Eagle Books and School District #54 (Bulkley Valley) in Smithers, BC.

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Witsuwit'en Language Nest

Goal: For Witsuwit’en children to hear Witsuwit’en exclusively at least 15 hours a week so they can become fluent speakers. This is a full immersion program!