From a Fellow Learner

From a Fellow Learner

As a little kid, I remember visiting my Granny and Grandpa’s house [1]. The woodstove would be on, a large bowl of bògǫǫ̀ [2] would be on the table, and there was always lots of laughter. My ears would perk up at the sound of Tłı̨chǫ Yatıı̀ being spoken. My Granny had even nicknamed me “smiley”, I was always so happy to be in that house, sitting, listening, even if I didn’t know what was being said.

After my grandparents passed away and I hadn’t yet learned my language, I realised that my grief not only involved missing them but missing the opportunity to speak and learn from them. In all of my cherished moments with them, not one included long conversation.

At the age of 29 I decided I would go back to school. I had completed a couple of university certificates in film, but I realised I wanted to focus more on Indigenous subjects. I started an Indigenous Governance degree through Yukon University, and it was there that I attended two Language Revitalization courses [3]. I quickly learned how vulnerable our languages are, but in that same light got to hear about other language revitalization efforts around the world and all the successes that they had in revitalizing their languages. The most important lesson: just start making a commitment to say it.

For me, that meant starting slow. I had a strong need to feel safe while speaking my language, so my little dog Sı̨nàà, a wonderful silent participant, was my first practice partner. I would learn commands to say to him in the language, try telling him about my day in the language, and by his magic, fluffy little way, I felt supported. I also started talking to my parents and siblings about all the things I was learning about language revitalization and Indigenous self-determination. By opening up about my own curiosity to them, I started to learn about all the efforts they were making to learn language and culture, and to learn more about our own family history. I wasn’t alone in my journey.

Slowly but surely, I started feeling more comfortable sharing with friends and family through social media. By widening my breadth of curiosity, I was able to learn more. Other speakers I knew would share words or phrases with me, share stories they knew about my grandparents and our family tree. Through all this sharing, I always felt vulnerable. I decided that any correction I was given I would take with open arms. I would accept it as the caring embrace from someone who’s trying to further my learning, and focus on the correction, even if some laughter or teasing may come with it.

It wasn’t until I was in my final year of my degree that I realised I could combine my background in film and my love for language learning. So much of what I learned through school and experienced first-hand as an emergent learner was that having language resources is so important to help expand vocabulary. It’s been my goal since then, to help aid in the creation of language learning tools. And it doesn’t have to be intimidating or daunting. Through making language resources you can help build your vocabulary too!

It could be as simple as a video you share on Facebook with a word you learned today. Or a drawing you did of a skidoo, with each colour written down in the language. Maybe it’s an audio recording you share of your Aunt or Uncle saying “how are you?” in the language. Maybe it’s a video you took outside, naming all the trees around you in the language. Maybe it’s a song you wrote in your language, or a video of your dog and all the commands you taught them in the language. Whatever it may be, whatever you feel comfortable making, whether it’s for you, shared with your family or even shared to a broader network of people, know that in your learning journey, you are not alone. You’ve got the caring embrace of your Ancestors with you and a fellow learner in me.

Masì ta masì [4],

Sadetło Scott

Sadetło Scott (she/her) is a Tłı̨chǫ Dene filmmaker, daughter to Gabrielle Mackenzie and Patrick Scott. She grew up and lives in Sǫǫ̀mbak’è, Denendeh (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories). Sadetło has a B.A. in Indigenous Governance and a Certificate in Heritage and Culture from Yukon University, and Certificates in Motion Picture Production and Cinematography from Capilano University. Sadetło's work, such as "nihtâwikihew / ᓂᐦᑖᐃᐧᑭᐦᐁᐤ / she gives birth," and “Edaxàdets'eetè” aims to educate on the importance of language and the Indigenous experience.

[1] Sehtsı̨ Julie Mackenzie, Sehtseè Joseph Suzie Mackenzie

[2] Bògǫǫ̀ means dry meat.

[4] Masì ta ması̀ means to appreciate, in gratitude, be thankful.

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