The c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation’s Language team has been able to streamline its FirstVoices and Digitization grant work through the new FPCC Language Technology Program (LTP), which supports digital language revitalization work.
With funding and training through the new program, the c̓išaaʔatḥ Knowledge Holders and the Tseshaht First Nation Language team have been adding words and phrases to their existing c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) FirstVoices site of over 1,300 nuučaan̓uɫ words and phrases, digitizing language resources and ensuring their digital content is safe and secure. The language team includes Dawn Foxcroft (Language Coordinator), Grant Watts (Data Technician) and Jocelyn Dick (Data Technician and Archive Trainee).
“FirstVoices is such an invaluable tool,” says Jocelyn. “It’s an amazing opportunity for many First Nations to document their language.”
čaa qʷiscuuyin hupii (Decide How We Can Help)
When the Tseshaht First Nation language program was relaunched in 2019, the team created a strategic plan for language that was made in consultation with the Tseshaht First Nation community, Elders, language learners and teachers. “A really important part of what we do is working with speakers and Elders and relationship building is key,” says Dawn.
The strategic plan focused on documentation for future generations and the creation of new language resources for nuučaan̓uɫ language learners and teachers. With a FirstVoices site already established, the team could focus on organizing and adding to the existing language database.
“A priority of our language program is to have somewhere to put all this knowledge, some structure, and some support and training,” says Dawn. “So much time and resources and technical ability have gone into the FirstVoices platform that we don’t have to worry about. It gives us the ability to focus on building relationships with our speakers and recording our speakers.”
ʔuušuksnaʔaał (To Figure Out Something Complicated)
As part of the process, members of the team create recordings, edit clips, cross-reference data, upload and add information onto the FirstVoices site. Once uploaded to the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) FirstVoices site, the language is accessible to learners who can use the resources to learn and interact with their language ʔuuʔuukʷiiʔatḥa (to speak your own dialect) wherever they live.
“I’ve always had an affinity with technology,” says Grant. “When I first came on with the team, I was really excited and wanted to know what could be done with FirstVoices and how we could add to it.”
An added layer of complexity to language revitalization in the digital era is ensuring that the digital materials are preserved in a secure way for future generations. As the data – including photographs and audio recordings – is stored on hard drives, it’s important there is no data degradation (sometimes called data decay or bit rot). Funding from FPCC for digitization work enabled the language team to protect its language data, while ensuring that management of the data will stay with the community.
“We used the Digitization Grant as a backup system,” says Grant. “We now have multiple backup systems with two hard drives, one in our Language House and one in our administration building.”
Grant has also been able to digitize many older recordings, from audio-cassettes and VHS recordings, into mp3s. This work also ensures that the knowledge stored in those recordings will be protected and available for many years to come.
hupiiwit̕asin (We Are Going to Help)
“The language is going to be there,” says Jocelyn. “It’s going to be living, it’s going to be breathing, it’s going to be there for a long time.”
We raise our hands to the c̓išaaʔatḥ Knowledge Holders, c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) language team and community members for their dedicated work to keep their language alive and accessible through online tools such as FirstVoices.com.
Check out the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) FirstVoices site here.
To download the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) FirstVoices app on iOS, click here.
To download the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) FirstVoices app on Android, click here.
Visit the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) Language Program here.
View our other community success stories here.
Dawn Foxcroft recently presented as part of the Endangered Languages Project‘s Festival of Indigenous Languages. Check out her presentation as she shares about her work to reclaim and revitalize Nuu-chah-nulth in British Columbia!
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