Stellat’en language and culture centre is providing virtual classes on their local dialect to connect the community to its culture and language.
“It is a huge part of our culture, and our language connects us to our land,” said Candice George, language coordinator for Stellat’en First Nation.
Currently, 5 percent of Elders speak the local dialect fluently, George said.
The Stellat’en dialect within the Dakelh nation has been introduced to help on-and-off reserve members in engaging and immersing in learning the language.
“Having online language lessons is inviting more opportunities to our members living off-reserves to be able to connect them to our culture and language. It is a huge part of our identity,” she said.
While most fluent speakers are 65 and over, anyone 64 and under are either new learners or “silent speakers”. Silent speakers can understand the language, but can neither read or write.
“A lot of our members understand parts of the language because we are raised with it, but we don’t speak it everyday in our households,” she said.
She said it is exciting to teach Elders about technology and connect them with members outside the community.
“[This will] also help to alleviate the sense of feeling lonely, especially during this time. The online language lessons are going to provide an opportunity where it feels a little bit normal,” she said.
The centre will also provide Elders with the means to communicate, including increased or improved internet.
“Those who don’t have an internet will be able to have an iPad that has self-service capability, which will help connect them virtually,” she added.
The centre held its first lesson on March 16 and will facilitate bi-weekly lessons until April 27. The first class was attended by 30 Stellat’en members and three non-community members.