Yukon elder honoured for Tlingit language work
A Yukon elder received a national literacy award Tuesday for her work in keeping the Tlingit aboriginal language alive in the territory.
In a ceremony Tuesday morning in Whitehorse, Emma Sam received a Council of the Federation Literacy Award from Yukon Education Minister Patrick Rouble, on behalf of Premier Dennis Fentie.
"I feel really good to be able to speak my language, and I wanted to make sure that it did not fade away," Sam told CBC News before Tuesday's ceremony.
Sam is one of 13 winners recognized this year by the council, which is composed of Canada's provincial and territorial premiers, for dedication in promoting literacy.
Sam, a member of the Teslin Tlingit First Nation who grew up speaking Tlingit, worked for years as an interpreter for the Yukon government before moving on to teach the language.
Along with other Tlingit speakers, Sam worked on creating a Tlingit noun dictionary over a 10-year period.
"If we tried to do the verbs, it would take forever," Sam said of the dictionary. "When we speak our language, every time you speak, the verbs change."
Sam continues to teach Tlingit classes that she said are open to everyone, regardless of their age or ancestry. She added that she's happy to see more people beginning to learn the language.
"People are becoming more aware that they have to be proud of who they are and where they come from," she said.
The Council of the Federation also gave awards this year to Annie Whane, a student and aspiring author with the Literacy Outreach Centre in Yellowknife, and to Quluaq Catherine Pilakapsi, an Inuit elder whose literacy resources for children and adults are recognized across Nunavut.