Dream Chasing

Dream Chasing

Drin Gwiinzih! Niniin ganjit sho ihtlee. Heart of the Yukon, Keno City, Elsa, Mayo qwats'at ihtlee. Na'aa Effie Mullin-Vittrekwa vagi, Teetlit Zheh gwats'at din cho. Shitsuu Annie Vittrekwa-Doe vagi. Tia'ah Kris Pavlovich vagi, Keno City gwats'at din cho. Yellowknife Dan Gwitchin. Mayo Gwichin ihtlee. Gwiinzih adik' anyotih. Nidivee Gouzo. Hai Cho!

Good day. It's good to see you. I’m Cynthia Pavlovich. I'm from Heart of the Yukon, Keno City, Elsa, Mayo. My mother’s name is Effie Mullin-Vittrekwa from Fort McPherson. My grandmother’s name is Annie Vittrekwa-Doe. My father's name is Kris Pavlovich, he's from Keno City. I live in Yellowknife. I'm from People Among the Trees ( Mayo = People Among the Trees). Take good care of yourselves. I wish you well in life.  Blessings. Thank you so much!

I have always wanted to learn my First Nation language. It’s been a lifelong goal, especially once I found out how endangered the languages are. However, I had no family members who could teach me. So the opportunities that I was able to tap into with the Mentor-Apprentice Program gave me the perfect place to start. This program is offered through NWT Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) in Yellowknife.  

Since being accepted in June 2023 as a Dinjii Zhuʼ Ginjik Apprentice, it has been so heart filling. From the first trip up to the Mackenzie Delta for the kickoff in Inuvik NWT, I felt like I was going home to a place I have never lived. This is a unique feeling all to itself. To be connected and reunited with the lands where my family and ancestors have always lived was an honour. The Mentors were all so wonderful and welcoming. The stories they shared and the cultural connections have been the most beautiful journey I have experienced this far. These are my people, these are my homelands, and I am not only accepted, but welcomed and celebrated. I will never forget the simplicity or how meaningful it was to hear an Elder say, “All you need is the fire, the land, and the water. This is where you belong and we are proud of you for being a part of this journey”. 

As someone who has previously struggled with intergenerational trauma, I have always kind of felt like there was a part of me inside my chest that was just empty. At different points in my life I tried to fill those spaces with boys, or drugs, or drinking, but nothing ever seemed to really fit. Now that I am taking back my language, and learning about my culture, I have begun to fill those spaces with such heart-felt, meaningful moments. Today I am absolutely overflowing with love and appreciation for this opportunity. I want to share this journey and joy with my people, and anyone around me who’s willing to listen and learn: coworkers who now greet me in the mornings Vahn Gwiinzii - Good morning -  my children who are starting to use the language at home. 

I spend a lot of my free time listening to Gwich’in lessons or songs, and have really tried to immerse myself as much as possible. I have found a passion for sharing Dinjii Zhuʼ Ginjik. My pregnant sister and our children were my inspiration for creating a series of books called “Giving the Language Back to the Children'' in which I plan to share simple phrases and common words, and have translated from Gwich’in into English and French. I hope that between the art I create as the owner of Gwich’in Luxury, and the language journey I am on, that I am able to chase my dreams, share my stories, and be a part of a language revitalization process that has them all thriving again. I plan to share my templates and work to help and promote other languages to be preserved. If you're passionate about learning your language, reach out and ask people. If you're a settler living here, learning even a greeting -  but even better a land acknowledgement -  in the language spoken by the people where you live is a beautiful way to connect to All My Relations, as well as show acts of reconciliation. I have been amazed at the resources and online classes that are available now that I have started to look. 

Here is my Gwich’in Luxury mission statement in English & Dinjii Zhuʼ Ginjik Gwich’in;

Drin Gwiinzih    (Good day) 

Ninilee ganji sho ihltee    (I am happy to see you)

Chan nan gwat’sat khanakhaandaiii niidadhanh  (we need to connect back to the earth)

K’egwaathat  (Creator/ God / the Boss)

Yiijiwichithoh’eh (have respect)

Ch’atigwiiniighan  (love)

Tr’eedglah  (laughter)

T’aih  (strength)

Gadiitr’onathahn  (teaching us)

Nikqigwindak    (our stories)

Atr’aadzoo ts’at elik  (dance and song)

Ch’anuh   (spirituality) 

Yeenoo nikhwichih gugwiindai’ kat guuk’it nan kak khehtak hàatsah (we need to navigate this world as our ancestors did) 

Gwiinzii gwitr’it gwàatsii guuzhik dlok nidhaa’aih   (doing our good work with a smile on our faces)

K’agwaadhat ts’àt yeenoo nikhwichih gugwiindai’ nikhwiginee’aa gwinjik gwiidandaih  (allowing Creator and all the ancestors to guide us) 

Nihkwehdoo gugwiheendaii kat, gwiinzii gugwiheendaii geenjit  (down the best path for seven generations to come after us) 

Gwiinzih adik'anaantih  (take good care of yourselves) 

Nidivee Gouzoo    (Good luck. Blessings) 

Hai Choo      (Thank you very much)

-    Cynthia Pavlovich, Dinjii Zhuʼ Ginjik Apprentice in ECE’s Mentor-Apprentice Program 

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