Indigenous

Hinterland Who's Who releases vignette on ravens in 6 Indigenous languages

Since the 1960s, Hinterland Who’s Who has been featuring iconic Canadian wildlife. Now it has vignettes on the common raven available in six Indigenous languages.

Videos on turtles and wolverines in Indigenous languages available since 2017

Hinterland Who's Who produced its original vignette on loons in 1963. Now videos are being translated into six Indigenous languages. (CBC)

Hinterland Who's Who, the series of iconic public service announcements about Canadian wildlife, has released a new video on the common raven available in six Indigenous languages.

The 30-second vignette joins the profiles on freshwater turtles and wolverines released in 2017 that are available with Woods Cree, Denesuline, Inuktitut, Mohawk, Ojibway and Oji-Cree translations. 

Hinterland Who's Who began airing on Canadian television in 1963 with a few short scenes featuring the loon, beaver and moose. A simple but unmistakable flute refrain opens the vignettes.

"I always believed that when people learn the language, you should share it at every opportunity that you can," said Jodi Lynn Maracle, who translated and voiced the Mohawk version of the raven video. 

Maracle teaches the Mohawk language at the University of Buffalo but didn't grow up a fluent speaker.

Jodi Lynn Maracle translated and voiced the Mohawk version of the raven video. (Caleb G. Abrams)

It wasn't until she was pregnant, she said, that she made an effort to learn the language of her people.

"We talk about passing things on to future generations but when there's a future generation growing in your body, it becomes much more real," she said. 

"I wanted to make sure that I gave him everything that I could to ground him in his Mohawk culture." 

Through her grandfather, Maracle had access to the language but also sought out anything else she could, from cassette tapes to YouTube videos and anything she could find on TV. 

Eventually she took two levels of a Mohawk language immersion program available in Six Nations to keep growing and maintaining her language skills. 

Maracle became involved with the Hinterland Who's Who Indigenous languages initiative after a friend who had been contacted by the production company behind the videos passed on Maracle's contact information. 

She said the translation process was tricky since the videos were only 30 seconds long but packed with English words that didn't necessarily have a Mohawk translation, or they would be 17-syllable words. 

Through consultation with other speakers, she was able to get the most important pieces to fit. 

"I think that it's a really great initiative because it does matter that people hear their languages outside of a classroom, outside a ceremony, outside of what's considered our home communities or territory," Maracle said. 

Living languages

"We wanted to show that Indigenous languages were living languages and not necessarily just vehicles for content about Indigenous peoples," said Annie Langlois, project manager of Hinterland Who's Who.

The first translated videos were released in 2017 in tandem with Canada 150; the objective of the Hinterland Who's Who series was to show how Canada was built around wildlife.

Since then, Langlois said, they've been trying to emphasize the relevance of the species to Indigenous people and their cultural importance as well.

The program is led by the Canadian Wildlife Federation in partnership with Environment Canada, which provides funding. 

The Hinterland Who's Who Indigenous language translations are available online, and there are plans to continue adding to the collection.

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.