Participants were asked to incorporate the Tsimshian Sm’algyax language into their artwork by blending the boundary lines of the greater Terrace area with paint, or labelling local buildings with Sm’algyax words. Here, the above word ‘Laxyuup’ means land, and the ‘Liksaax’ below means door. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Participants were asked to incorporate the Tsimshian Sm’algyax language into their artwork by blending the boundary lines of the greater Terrace area with paint, or labelling local buildings with Sm’algyax words. Here, the above word ‘Laxyuup’ means land, and the ‘Liksaax’ below means door. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Sm’algya̱x language explored through conversation, art

Indigenous educator Arlene Deptuck visited Terrace Feb. 20 for a language and art workshop

Indigenous education coordinator Arlene Deptuck came from Nanaimo to Terrace to speak about the importance of Sm’algya̱x language preservation and how it can be expressed through art.

“The opportunity to work with artists both Indigenous and non-Indigenous from all over the world has inspired me to take my language revitalization in new, creative ways,” she says.

More than 20 people attended a language and art workshop Feb. 20, aimed at deepening the understanding of the Tsimshian Sm’algya̱x language through art connecting people, language and place.

Participants first drew the contours of the greater Terrace area on a postcard, blurring the boundary lines using a mix of watercolours to reimagine the territory with Sm’algya̱x words incorporated into it.

Others, like Kitsumkalum education administrator Charlotte Guno, took images of local buildings like the Terrace Public Library and relabelled it ‘Wap liitsx’, which means ‘library’ in Sm’algya̱x.

READ MORE: Kitsumkalum school focussed on student success

“We’re having to think about maps in new ways as well now too, this is one space that’s allowing us some fun time to experiment with how that feels, making those shifts in our spirits to opening our hearts and minds for that,” Deptuck says.

Earlier that day, Deptuck visited local schools in the Coast Mountains School District 82 for her ‘Positive Change Postcards’ project, an art penpal exchange between these schools and schools in Nanaimo.

“The young people are going to be thinking about the languages in the two territories and have new understandings of the different Nations through language,” she says.

She decided to bring the project back to her home ancestral lands at Kitsumkalum and to Terrace through a sponsorship with the First Peoples Cultural Council, an organization that supports the revitalization of Indigenous languages.

“We are at a critical state for many of our languages all across Canada and North America,” Deptuck says. “We can’t just leave this to the Indigenous communities to do that, to do this work. If they’re just doing it and they come out into the mainstream community and there’s still this divide between the two of us, then there’s going to be a problem.”

The effects of attempted assimilation of Indigenous languages through colonialism, old laws and residential school systems can still be felt in communities including places like Terrace, where Indigenous residents make up 23 per cent of the city’s population, according to 2016 population data from Statistics Canada.

Dr. Mique’l Dangeli, a Sm’algya̱x language teacher at ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School in Kitsumkalum and an adjunct professor of First Nations studies at the University of Northern BC, brought her class to the demonstration.

READ MORE: Indigenous woman fights to stay in Canada, saying traditional territory is B.C.

She says there is only one fluent Sm’algya̱x speaker left in Kitselas, and around three speakers in Kitsumkalum. As part of the Sm’algya̱x language revitalization efforts, 96-year old speaker Medeeg (John Reese), one of the last speakers of the language in Ketchikan Alaska, will be speaking at Kitsumkalum Hall from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on March 2.

Deptuck hopes her pilot program will spread to other parts of the province as language revitalization and preservation continues.

“By creating something that is engaging and fun, that brings in conversation and gives us space to shake things up a little bit and not be afraid — I’m happy to do that,” she says.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Indigenous peoplesIndigenous reconcilliation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

From left: Brittany McDougall, Charlotte Guno and Arlene Roberts hold up their postcards made during the presentation. (Brittany Gervais photo)

From left: Brittany McDougall, Charlotte Guno and Arlene Roberts hold up their postcards made during the presentation. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Indigenous education coordinator Arlene Deptuck came from Nanaimo B.C. to Terrace and spoke with local schools about the importance of language preservation and how that can be expressed through art. This is part of her ‘Positive Change Postcards’ project aimed at deepening the understanding of the Tsimshian Sm’algyax language through conversation connecting people, language and place. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Indigenous education coordinator Arlene Deptuck came from Nanaimo B.C. to Terrace and spoke with local schools about the importance of language preservation and how that can be expressed through art. This is part of her ‘Positive Change Postcards’ project aimed at deepening the understanding of the Tsimshian Sm’algyax language through conversation connecting people, language and place. (Brittany Gervais photo)

More than 20 people attended a public conversation and art workshop with Indigenous educator Arlene Deptuck on Feb. 20 at the Terrace Public Library. (Brittany Gervais photo)

More than 20 people attended a public conversation and art workshop with Indigenous educator Arlene Deptuck on Feb. 20 at the Terrace Public Library. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Just Posted

Main door at Cranes Crossing, Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter, on March 5. Northern Health issued a public notice of potential exposure occurring at the shelter between Feb. 22 and 24. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
COVID-19 Public Exposure Notice issued for Prince Rupert’s homeless shelter

Northern Health said possible exposure between Feb. 22 and 24

Air Canada cancelled flights to Prince Regional Airport on Jan. 23, 2021 due to loss of ridership during COVID-19. An Air Canada Rouge takes off from Montreal in March 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
BC Liberals call for immediate action and support for B.C. airports

Prince Rupert Regional Airport and others across the province struggle with COVID-19 effects

Paul Williams rector of St. Andrews Cathedral in Prince Rupert sits in front of the 95-year-old pipe organ on March 5. The church has put out a community call for volunteers to play the instrument to keep it fresh and operational. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
St. Andrews Cathedral pipe organ needs players to make it sing

Prince Rupert volunteers who want to practice their playing skills are welcome

Alex Campbell, Velna Nelson, Beatrice Robinson and Ellen Mason take part in the Sm’algyax Word App and website launched by School District 52 on March 1. (Photo: Supplied by Roberta Edzera)
Prince Rupert SD 52 launches new Sm’algyax word app and website

Database for new language resources stems back more than 30 years

The welcome sign is the first thing new employees moving to Prince Rupert will see as they drive the road into the city. The ‘Prince Rupert - Make it Home’ employment campaign to draw people to the region was launched on Feb. 16. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Stakeholders respond to employee recruitment campaign housing ‘disconnect’

‘Prince Rupert -Make it Home’ is 5-year recruitment and retention campaign

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read