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(Many Paths)
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Kaska Elder Working With UBC Researchers To Develop New Dictionary
by CBC News

U.B.C. is working on a long term project to create a Kaska dictionary

Mida Donnessy is working with a linguist at the University of British Columbia on a Kaska dictionary. (CBC)

A team at the University of British Columbia preparing a dictionary of the Kaska language is relying, in part, on Watson Lake, Yukon elder Mida Donnessy to provide pronunciation and context for the Kaska words.

Donnessy described her work through Linda McDonald, a translator.

"She said we work with the linguist, he records us and he writes it down," McDonald translated. "And why do we do this? She says for the kids. For the kids, yeah."

Kaska speakers primarily live in Watson Lake and Ross River, Yukon, and several small communities in northern British Columbia.

Through McDonald, Donnessy said that the number of people who are fluent in Kaska is dwindling, saying that she "just went to two funerals within three weeks, two of my cousins. They're sisters, both fluent. One didn't speak English at all.

"To go to their funerals, that's what hits you really hard. Not only losing them, but you're losing that connection to the past," McDonald translated. "All that knowledge. all that information. That's what I think about when I'm doing this. The urgency of it."

Donnessy works with the linguist at U.B.C. at least twice a week. The university also operates a Kaska language website, in partnership with the Kaska First Nations and the First Nation Language Program.

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Kaska Language Website
This website was created to house the Kaska language materials from the Kaska language courses that are jointly sponsored by the First Nations Languages Program (FNLG) at the University of British Columbia and the Kaska First Nations. The website is available for use by students in the language courses, by Kaska community members, and by others interested in learning Kaska.
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