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

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)

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)

Just Posted

Witset chosen for housing innovation funding program

Proposal to build healing lodge for at-risk youth one of four selected in B.C.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and hereditary chiefs agree to future meeting

Scott Fraser was in Smithers on Jan. 22 and spoke with Office of the Wet’suwet’en representatives

Unist’ot’en Camp say RCMP have changed 27 kilometre roadblock rules

Footage shows RCMP telling an unidentified lawyer they can’t re-enter the checkpoint

B.C. Indigenous communities receive funding for hands-on trades training

Nuxalk, Witset, Penticton Indian Band, TRU Williams Lake, and Camosun College among beneficiaries

Telkwa bridge struck by empty logging truck

The truck hit the bridge on its east side and appears to have damaged a wooden beam

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

B.C. man dies after police called for ‘firearms injury’ in rural Alberta

Victim is 30-year-old Greater Victoria man, say police

Most Read