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

 

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

Muheim class repeats 2017 award for interaction with seniors

Liliana Pesce’s Grade 4-5 class honoured by BC Retired Teachers Association

Bulkley Valley U14 boys soccer squad wins zones

The Rapids will now proceed to provincial championship in Prince George July 4-5

Donaldson announces seal coating for portions of Hwy 16, Kispiox

Two sections of road in the Bulkley Valley have had their fate sealed.

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

B.C. Interior First Nation family ‘heartbroken’ over loss of young mom

RCMP have released no new information since the June 8, 2019 homicide

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Most Read