Language - Gūzā́gī Gūtīe Sū́dzenehʼīn (We Are Looking After Our Language)
The preservation, revitalization, and maintenance of the Kaska language is vital to the health and well-being of all members of Liard First Nation. Currently, there are approximately 100 fluent speakers of the Kaska language living throughout the Kaska territory, speaking a range of regional dialects of the language. We embrace all our dialects, as they represent and exemplify the richness of our culture, history, and of our people.
The Liard First Nation Chief and Council recognize that in order for the Kaska language to thrive in our community again, purposeful actions on several fronts must be undertaken simultaneously.
The Liard First Nation Language Team is committed to the following:
- Development of the Liard First Nation Language Strategy in order to clarify the First Nation’s priorities, which will ultimately guide it towards a successful language recovery.
- Ongoing documentation of the Kaska language, including all of its dialects. This includes documenting traditional stories, natural conversations and interactions, and the gathering of materials for the Kaska “talking” Dictionary.
- Development of well-planned, effective, and consistent language programming that is available to community members. This includes developing a variety of language materials and learning resources that are easily accessible and available to anyone who is interested in learning from them.
- Ongoing training and overall capacity building in the community to ensure the sustainability of local language revitalization efforts. Liard First Nation members who are committed to increasing their language fluency, and interested in pursuing language-related careers, need to have access to quality and effective training and education, as well as ongoing support in their Kaska language study to ensure success. When one member succeeds, we all succeed.
Gūchōʼ kḗgedīʼ, sekʼādé gūkʼéh gū́sʼānī lā. Nahtsʼédānéʼ gutie gukʼéh kegiyehdį̄ wḗdé gūchōʼ gekʼéh gūʼą̄ī degā. Dūłą̄́ gukēyeh ā́ndzedeʼą̄́. Nahdegā lā sugudzeneʼīnī. Gutīe nahhwanī kʼī gūzā́gī, gūkēyeh gukʼéh gū́sʼānī dega gūtīe sunehʼīn. Dene tsʼį̄́ gūdehdéh déʼ, “Nahtsʼédānéʼ tsʼį̄́ Dene kʼéh gūdehdéh,” gedīʼ tsʼédāne dḗngētsedle déʼ, gūtie denezāgī kūgūhdį́ sį̄́ ekūdeh. Wḗdé Nahtsʼédānéʼ tsʼį̄́ʼ gūdehdéh. Tsʼédāne neyehī dūłą̄́ guzāg-I kʼéh denekʼéh gūsʼāni meyḗgūdī sį̄́. Eghąh edegedezets.
Estsų̄ Tilly gutsʼį̄́ʼ gūdedéh, ʼNahtsʼédānéʼ guzāgī kegīyehdį̄ Medégudihtʼē dādąh néhzedi déʼ yē zāgi nahyéneʼānī kʼéh nahtsʼį̄́ gūdēdḗsį̄́. Dūłą̄́ nahzāgī kʼéh gūdehdḗ déʼ Medégudihtʼē dédīʼa dūłą̄́ meyêhdī́ sį̄́.
"Tell our people to teach their children to speak our language. It is better to teach your children while they are small. Speak to your children all the time in Kaska. We are worried that the children are going to grow up without knowing their language and without knowing their ways."
Our Elders say, “We still keep our ways. Teach your children well in our ways so our Elders’ ways will carry on. Don’t give away our land. It is for you that we are keeping it. You all also keep our language, our land and our ways."
Grandma Tilly told us, “You have to teach the children to speak our language because when you stand in front of God, he will speak to each person in the language he gave us. If they don’t know their language they will not understand him.”
Source: First Voices website
Dene Zā́géʼ (The Kaska language) is one of the eight aboriginal languages spoken in the Yukon Territory today. Historically, the Kaska language was spoken by most of the aboriginal people of southeastern Yukon and northeastern British Columbia.
Kaska is a member of the Dene (Athabaskan) language family. This extensive language family consists of many languages in the northern region of Canada, including parts of Alaska and also extending as far south as California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Today, most Kaska people reside in the Yukon, in and around the communities of Watson Lake and Ross River. Other predominantly Kaska settlements include a number of communities in northern British Columbia such as Lower Post, Muncho Lake, and Good Hope Lake.
There are at least six dialects or varieties of Kaska, including the Pelly Banks dialect, the Frances Lake dialect, the Ross River dialect, the Liard dialect, the Lower Liard dialect, and the Good Hope Lake dialect. The dialects vary in some grammatical features, sounds, and vocabulary and vary in mutual intelligibility based on their geographic location in relation to one another.
The Kaska language is taught in both the Watson Lake Elementary and Secondary schools.
The Liard First Nation Language Team is working on expanding opportunities to learn the Kaska language, exploring various learning models to support language learners of all ages and language abilities.
The Kaska Language preservation efforts began in the 1980’s. Many recordings of Kaska speakers have been made, and will gradually be organized in ways that are more accessible to the community.
The following is a listing of some of the online and print resources available for the Kaska Language.
1. University of British Columbia Kaska Language Website
This collaborative website was created to house a variety of Kaska language materials, available for use to students in UBC’s Kaska language courses, by Kaska community members, and by others interested in learning the Kaska Language.
It has been made possible through the joint sponsorship of the University of British Columbia’s First Nations Endangered Languages Program and the Kaska First Nations in British Columbia and the Yukon. The website serves as a repository of online Kaska materials, so the content is periodically updated.
Department of Anthropology and Sociology, UBC
6303 NW Marine Drive
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z1
2. The Kaska “talking” Dictionary
Gūpā́né yéh dedī website dzehtsīn: Ross River Dena Council yéh, Liard First Nation yéh, Daylu Dena Council yéh, Yukon Education yéh, Liard Aboriginal Womenʼs Society yéh, University of British Columbia yéh. Kḗdzentʼēdé dedī website ghąh kédzīhdél.
This website was developed in collaboration between the following partners: The Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, the Daylu Dena Council, Yukon Education, Liard Aboriginal Womenʼs Society, and the University of British Columbia. We all worked together on this website.
3. First Voices Kaska Language Preservation
The First Voices: Language Legacies Celebrating Indigenous Cultures is a web-based project that supports the revitalization of Indigenous languages, arts, culture, and heritage in British Columbia. It is funded by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.
4. Yukon Archives
The Yukon Archives holds collections of historical photographs, historical materials, and language audio files relevant to the history of the Kaska people and the Kaska language.
5. Yukon Native Language Centre
The Yukon Native Language Centre is a training and research facility that provides a range of linguistic and educational services to Yukon First Nations and to the general public. It also houses a variety of materials pertaining to the Kaska language.
6. Reading List
This list of books and academic papers on Kaska people and language is provided for research and general interest purposes only. These resources are not specifically endorsed or recommended by the LFN Language Department.
Dene Gudeji: Kaska Narratives Kaska Tribal Council
Dene Gedeni: Traditional Lifestyles of Kaska Women Ross River Dena Council
Guzāgi kʼū́géʼ Our Language Book: Kaska, Mountain Slavey, and Sekani Nouns Kaska Tribal Council