Dozens of Metlakatla First Nation members are meeting in Prince Rupert, B.C. this weekend to find ways to preserve and pass down their culture, history and language.

Allowing future generations to connect with their roots as well as protecting sites of cultural significance will be the goals of a new cultural program from the Nation," said Metlakatla communications manager Shaun Thomas.

"Really, culture is what makes the people of Metlakatla Metlakatla," Thomas told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon. "It really is very much about the relationship between the land and the sea. So if you're not preserving that, then you're losing a key part of the Metlakatla Nation."

Thomas says the Metlakatla language only has about five or six remaining fluent speakers and in recent years, petroglyphs have been known to go missing. These factors have made the need for a cultural program more urgent, he says.

Thomas says other priorities include repatriation of artifacts taken away from Metlakatla territory and possibly the construction of a museum to house them.

On the first day of the gathering, about 50 people came to the North Coast Convention Centre to give their input on preserving the First Nation's culture, and Thomas says language preservation was one of the biggest concerns expressed by members.

The meeting on the cultural program wraps up on Saturday.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Metlakatla First Nation working on plan to protect heritage, language