British Columbia

Prince Rupert students must learn indigenous language from September

Sm'algyax has been taught in two district schools for the past decade, but starting in September, all students in Kindergarten through Grade 4 will learn the language.

Students in Kindergarten through Grade 4 will learn Sm'algyax, language of the Tsimshian First Nation

This is one of the Prince Rupert schools where children will be required to learn some of the language of the Tsimshian First Nation. (Google Streetview)

Starting in September, all Prince Rupert, B.C., students enrolled in Kindergarten through Grade 4 will be required to learn Sm'algyax, the language of the Tsimshian First Nation.

The language program has been available at two of the district's schools for the past decade, but it will now expand to every primary classroom in the city. 

Roberta Edzerza, the Aboriginal Education Principal for School District 52, says the program is designed to teach small, simple aspects of the language that can be used in song, activities and outdoor learning. 

"We are on traditional Tsimshian territory and the Sm'algyax is the language of the territory," she told Carolina de Ryk on CBC Radio One's Daybreak North

"We are so proud and we would like to share our language and culture with everybody."

While learning a second language has been shown to be beneficial to the developing brain, Edzerza adds that this particular program can act as a bridge between cultural communities. 

"It's one avenue to address racism. Education is key. Learning the language and sharing in the learning and the culture," she said.

"Our students are really proud and they look forward to learning the language."

To hear the full interview with Roberta Edzerza, listen to the audio labelled: Students in Prince Rupert to learn indigenous language.


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