Yukon First Nations aim to preserve, revitalize their languages through video
Representatives from the territory’s 14 First Nations will be producing videos
A project is underway to help preserve and revitalize the languages of Yukon First Nations, entailing the production of 280 videos recorded in the territory's 14 First Nations.
"We're really trying to concentrate on gathering language information, cultural information that has not been documented before," Tina Jules, director of the Yukon Native Language Centre, said at a press event for the project at the centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday.
"We're hoping that this is a model that other First Nations people in Canada and Indigenous peoples can look at for using technology, building capacity, documenting our languages, and contributing to revitalizing our languages all at the same time."
Shadelle Chambers, executive director of the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN), said the organization consulted Yukon First Nations, and those members identified preserving their languages as important.
Each First Nation will have a representative videographer. Most of the videographers have already started training at the centre.
They each have a kit with about $4,000 worth of equipment, including a tripod, audio recorder, video recorder, and a laptop.
"It's a lot to take in," said Sharda Ayotte-O'Connor of the training.
The 29-year-old, who lives in Burwash Landing, is working for Kluane First Nation. She identifies as non-status Métis.
Ayotte-O'Connor said "it's a bit intimidating" to have to conduct an interview in Southern Tutchone, a language she's not fluent in, for the project, but she knows that the elders she's working with will help her with it.
"At least in Burwash, we have very few elders left. We have two elders that are in their 90s right now, and we want to record as much of them as we can while they're still here with us," she said.
Shannon Reed, who is from Carmacks, is a member of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation.
She said she wants to produce videos with elders explaining trapping, harvesting, sewing, snowshoe making, and what life was like for them when they were children.
"I'm interested in doing lots of field work. So, instead of doing interviews indoors, I like to do them outside. So, hopefully, the weather's good," said Reed, 24.
The most challenging part of the project will be conducting the interviews and appearing on camera, she added.
The videographers will go back to their communities on Friday and start recording the videos.
In November, they'll get more training on video production, including captioning. Months later, they're expected to learn how to repurpose their videos for other mediums.
The videos are scheduled to be released online for the public to see on March 31, National Aboriginal Languages Day, though some videos on "sacred topics" will not be made public, Jules said.
The project has a $315,000 price tag. The funding comes from CYFN, and the National Research Council Canada's Canadian Indigenous Languages Technology Project. The Yukon government also provides support by way of supporting the Yukon Native Language Centre, she said.
"If you think about revitalization in the broader context, it's about making our languages, the first language again in every aspect of our life, whether it's in home, at work, in government," Jules said. "Not to say that we leave English behind, but it's putting our languages back where they once were."