Sambaalįah at Heart

Dawn Bell-Isaiah

Negha dágondíh? Dawn Bell-Isaiah suzhe, Sambaalįah gots’eh āaht’e, duh Łíídlįį Kúé nāhendēh, Cathy Sanguez aaht’e metúé, George Bell heɂi aaht’e metúé. (How are you? My name is Dawn Bell-Isaiah. I am from Trout River, I live in Fort Simpson, I am the daughter of Cathy Sanguez and the late George Bell.) I was so proud to learn how to introduce myself in our language. I say it proudly whenever I can.

I am a Dene woman from the Dehcho Region, born in Yellowknife, NT and raised in the Dehcho. A big part of my life took place at my parents’ homestead of Sambaalįah (Trout River) where my mother would always speak fluent Dene Zhatié – I was so lucky to have always heard our language.

I did not grow up speaking the language, but I heard it everywhere Semǫ (my mother) was. If she knew someone could speak Dene K’ee, she wouldn’t speak to them in Mola K’ee (English). Listening to her speak always made me feel proud to be Dene,  just by watching how people glow when they speak; their laugh is always a little stronger when they hear something funny. The sounds I heard in our language growing up have really helped me develop my own Dene Zhatié vocabulary.

When I took a community Dene Zhatié class in Łíídlįį Kúé with our now Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian, she told us to speak up and to always practice our speaking; to never lose hope and to never give up, even when people laugh at you when you mispronounce words. Even when people always want to correct what you say, let them do that and keep going. Sometimes our elders want us to be great and that means they must help us to be better. Don’t take offence, keep going. During the class, a story was shared of a man who was learning his Indigenous language. Once he was taught a new word, he would never again repeat it in the English language, I thought that was great advice.

“You are making a heroic commitment to a wonderful cause by working together to bring your language back out into the air where it belongs” (Leanne Hinton 2002. How to Keep Your Language Alive)

Dawn Bell-Isaiah

Submitted by Rosie Browning… (not verified) on Thu, 02/20/2020 - 21:33


Such admiration to a beautiful young woman, and mom. Way to keep language alive, I should be so lucky. Mahsi for sharing.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.