Karen Mitchell is the new host of N.W.T.'s Gwich'in show, Nantaii
'Broadcasting is probably one of our only avenues of preserving the language,' she says
Karen Mitchell is joining the CBC North team as the new host of the Gwich'in language program, Nantaii, out of Inuvik, N.W.T.
Mitchell fills the position left vacant by Ruth Carroll, who retired in August.
Mitchell is from Fort McPherson. She grew up in the bush, travelling by dog sled with her eight siblings, "with no microwave and no cell phone," she laughs.
Her 95-year-old mother, Eunice, championed the Gwich'in language in their household. She advocated for the language at conferences and workshops, and encouraged Mitchell and her sister to keep up their skills and customs.
"To keep the language alive at home... we weren't allowed to speak English. She wouldn't respond to us," Mitchell recalls.
Mitchell started translating at the age of 14. She's worked at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife as a medical interpreter, as a cultural liaison for residential school survivors, and as a teacher in Inuvik.
"Language has always been my passion," she says.
Two worlds colliding
Mitchell has big plans for her new role as the host of Nantaii.
"Broadcasting is probably one of our only avenues of preserving the language," she says. "It gives anybody and everybody access to the dialogue."
Mitchell is impressed with the recent upsurge of young people talking about the Gwich'in language on social media, and she wants to keep that momentum going.
She hopes to dial up elders in their homes and simultaneously speak with young people on Skype and other social media platforms.
Mitchell will take part in CBC North's territorial election coverage tonight, delivering results on TV and radio in Gwich'in. She'll head back to Inuvik next week to settle into her new role.