Young Gwich'in woman champion of her language

Jacey Firth is championing the Gwich'in language by driving a social media campaign using the hashtag #SpeakGwichinToMe.

'It's like a light that will never go out,' says Jacey Firth of the Gwich'in language

Jacey Firth put this photo of herself on her group's Facebook page, with the Gwich'in pronunciation for laughing and the hashtag #SpeakGwichinToMe. (Gwich'in Language Revival Campaign/Facebook)

A young Gwich'in woman has become a champion of her language.

Jacey Firth is driving a social media campaign using the hashtag #SpeakGwichinToMe.

"Speaking and teaching Gwich'in to me is like my personal motive of giving back to my community of Inuvik and giving back to the North," says the 21-year-old.

Firth created a Facebook page called Gwich'in Language Revival Campaign. She got the idea for the hashtag #SpeakGwichinToMe at an indigenous languages conference, where she met a young man who started the campaign #SpeakSamiToMe — a language spoken by the Sami people in Northern Europe. 

On the group's Facebook page, people post Gwich'in translations of words and phrases. (Gwich'in Language Revival Campaign/Facebook)

"Speaking Gwich'in and learning about my culture just empowered me so much, it made me feel so good about myself and I hope I can make others feel the same way by like showing people that language and culture is cool."

On the page, people post Gwich'in translations of words and phrases, as well as ask questions about the spelling and pronunciation of words.

Firth says online tools such as dictionaries and apps have made learning the language easier. She uses a Gwich'in language app that's available to download on smart phones. It provides translations for everything from numbers to words for family, commands, and the land.

'It's like a light that will never go out'

Firth says teaching the language to others makes her feel like she has a purpose. 

"It makes me feel like I'm giving credit to my family, my parents, and my grandparents. How I'm here now because of them, learning my language and teaching it as a way of giving back."

Firth says online resources like dictionaries and a Gwich'in language app are easy to use. (Gwich'in Language Revival Campaign/Facebook)
Gwich'in is considered "severely endangered" by the United Nations' Atlas of the World's Languages. 

One study from UNESCO estimates the total number of Gwich'in speakers in the world: about 150 people in Alaska and about 250 in Canada. 

Firth says that "definitely" worries her, but she keeps plugging away.

"I just open up my Gwich'in books and read it and practice Gwich'in," she says. "Cause I know, I guess, as long as I'm speaking it and teaching myself and I'm teaching others it's like a light that will never go out."


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