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First Words: Elizabeth Wilson speaks Heiltsuk

Elizabeth Wilson is a Heiltsuk language teacher. She'll teach you the Heiltsuk words for 'thank you very much' and 'respect.'
Elizabeth Wilson teaches Heiltsuk language classes. (Supplied by Elizabeth Wilson)

First Words is a weekly podcast focused on Indigenous languages. Each week, we welcome a new guest into the hosting chair to teach us some words in their language. ​


Elizabeth Wilson teaches the Heiltsuk language, in this episode, she'll teach you the word for respect, and how to say thank you very much. 6:16

Elizabeth Wilson has dreamed of being a teacher ever since she was in kindergarten.

Wilson is of the Heiltsuk and Tsimshian Nations, and she speaks the Heiltsuk (Hailhzaqvla) language.

When Wilson moved from Bella Bella, B.C., to the Vancouver area to attend university to obtain her teaching certificate, she started getting messages from Heiltsuk members living in the city.

"I was getting messages asking 'Are you going to be having language classes here in the city? If so, when and where?' And it was constant, almost every day," recalled Wilson.

"I've never heard of anybody teaching any of our community members that live in the Lower Mainland," said Wilson.

Many urban Heiltsuk members told Wilson that "they've never learned the language at all in their life."

So, Wilson started the first Heiltsuk class in Vancouver.

The first class was "really emotional" for Wilson.

"It just brought so much joy and pride to my heart."

"I am very passionate about our language, and our culture, and keeping our history alive, and making new history. Like having this first  Heiltsuk language class offered in the city."

Wilson's long term goal is to teach Heiltsuk immersion in Bella Bella.