'We are the future.
It's up to us,' high school student says of bringing back her band's
school student Tessa Erickson is developing an app and summer
camp to help teach kids the Dakelh language. (Jordan Tucker/CBC)
A 15-year-old in Prince George, B.C., will be spending 2018
trying to revitalize the language her family spoke for generations
through an app and a summer camp.
Tessa Erickson is a high school student and a member of the
Nak'azdli Whut'en First Nation. Growing up, she said, her father
would occasionally speak to her in the Nak'azdli dialect of the
Dakelh language historically spoken in central B.C., even though
he wasn't fluent.
"He would just teach me small words," Erickson said.
"It was really neat because I could tell my dad something and
nobody would really know what it meant, but kind of a bit sad because
nobody knew what it meant."
the 1960s the Carrier Linguistic Society developed a writing
system for Dakelh based on the Latin alphabet. (FirstVoices.com)
Erickson learned about residential schools and how older members
of her family were prevented from speaking their language, which
lead to a decline in those who could speak it.
"We'd lost that part of ourselves," she said.
This year, she decided she wanted things to change.
Working with her parents, she applied for a grant from her band
to develop an app and summer camp to help other young people immerse
themselves in Dakelh. She received $50,000 and is in the early stages
of development now.
spends free time improving her Dakelh language skills and
enrolled in a course at the local college to improve her grammar.
spends free time improving her Dakelh language skills and enrolled
in a course at the local college to improve her grammar. (Jordan
Her goal is to have an app up and running in the the early part
of 2018 so youth can start learning basic words and sentence structure,
then they can attend a camp where they will learn the language from
elders and trained speakers.
She is also looking into paying for coding lessons for band
members so they can operate and update the app.
Meanwhile, Erickson is working toward fluency, speaking to elders
and enrolling in a Dakelh language course in a different but similar
dialect at the College of New Caledonia.
notes on what her app might look like. (Jordan Tucker/CBC)
Erickson said it's important to her to learn while
the elders are still around in her community.
"I feel I haven't quite lived out my full potential
as a member of the band because I cannot speak the language and
parts of the culture I haven't learned yet," she said.
She also believes it will be good for the Nak'azdli
Whut'en as a whole to keep the language alive.
"Bringing back the language could really help us
as a community come together culturally. Just, make us stronger
and hopefully we can branch out and help out other communities,"
She hopes other young people will join her in her
"We are the future. It's up to us."