Gitsenimx language learner Katrina Morgan shares her plans to connect with her language as an apprentice through an FPCC language immersion program.
The First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s Mentor-Apprentice Program (MAP) continues to be a great resource for First Nations language immersion learning and revitalization efforts in B.C. Katrina Morgan is planning to strengthen her ability to speak Gitsenimx̱ by working with fluent speaker Irene Derrick. This work will also benefit her community as Katrina will use what she learns with Irene while at work in a language immersion program with children.
yukw na siwilaaksinhl gitksenimx̱ (I’m learning or teaching Gitxsen)
Katrina’s journey towards learning her language started through her role at the Gitwangak Education Society. At Wilp Siwilaksinsxhl Simgiget Elementary School, Gitsenimx̱ is spoken throughout much of the day. “I just started working at the daycare, and we have language from 9 in the morning into the afternoon,” she says. “So working there really encouraged me to start learning the language.”
Katrina is inspired to learn Gitsenimx by her family’s experience of language loss. “I’ve always wanted to learn my language because my parents don’t speak it. My dad went to residential school and my mom was in the day residential school,” says Katrina. Although the generational transfer of language was interrupted, she is working to bring it back to her household and share it with a new generation of speakers.
FPCC’s MAP planted the seed for Katrina’s language journey to bloom after connecting with fluent speaker, Irene Derrick. They started working with each other early in 2023 while working at the school. When Katrina learned about MAP from one of FPCC’s cultural revitalization coaches, she decided to ask Irene if she was interested in being her Mentor and this started her plan to reconnect with her language.
anoog̱ii’y wen sim algyaxi’m (I like it when we speak our language)
Irene comes from a family of fully fluent speakers. She is a great language mentor, not only for her lived experience as a fluent speaker, but also for her wealth of professional and mentorship experience. For 19 years she worked in Gitanyow as a language and culture teacher but has since moved into Gitwangak Education, where she now works in the daycare program.
“I was raised by my parents, who were both fluent speakers, as well as my grandmother,” says Irene. “They all didn’t speak English, so they used Gitksan language every day. I have seven sisters and one brother, and they are all fluent speakers as well.”
Irene’s language is deeply rooted in her culture, with many of her values instilled through cultural activities from a young age – planting potatoes, preserving fish and berries, but most importantly, speaking Gitsenimx̱ fluently. sat’aama’am skuul diit no’m dim diip wendilh skuusiit (They started teaching us how to plant potatoes)
Irene stays encouraged to continue teaching and mentoring because of how important it is to her to see the young ones learning and speaking their language. Teaching through language immersion brings back the natural way of learning the language by speaking in everyday life.
“It makes me proud to hear our little ones speak,” says Irene. “One of our [children] is really catching on…. We have them sitting at a table after breakfast, and then we start [speaking in] Gitsenimx. That’s how our mom and our nanny taught us: when we’re sitting at the table, you talk in Gitsenimx.”
As of 2022, FPCC’s Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages noted 255 fluent Gitsenimx̱ speakers and 339 semi-fluent speakers (594 total). Katrina is on her way to becoming one more speaker to contribute to the increasing statistics. “I think anyone who is wanting to learn their language should definitely go for it and not be scared,” she encourages.
Irene hopes for others to apply to the Mentor-Apprentice Program because it’s important in respecting the Elders. She notes, “I’d like to encourage young parents to learn the Gitsenimx language (or any other language) because it helps out when you go into the feast hall…Because Elders, they talk in their own language, and then they’ll understand what you’re saying.”
Partnerships between language learners and fluent speakers like Katrina and Irene highlights exactly what FPCC’s Mentor-Apprentice Program hopes to achieve through collaborative language work – bringing language fluency back into homes, communities, cultural practices and the transfer of knowledge from Elders.
FPCC’s Mentor-Apprentice Program
Are you interested in learning your language, or are you a fluent speaker who would like to mentor a language learner? FPCC’s Mentor-Apprentice Program (MAP) is a one-on-one language immersion program supporting language learners by bringing their language into daily life.
We are here to support you with your application. Please email the program contact, Aurora Skala, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program was made possible in 2022-23 with funding from the following: Anglican Church of St. John the Divine; Anglican Diocese of British Columbia; Anglican Foundation (Catholic Apostolic Universal Church Trust Fund); United Church of Canada Healing Fund; and the Department of Canadian Heritage as a result of the Government of Canada’s Indigenous Languages Act.
Explore more stories about language projects and other program areas here.
When possible, language recordings were shared from the public Gitsenimx site on FirstVoices.com using Soundcite.
The spelling for Gitsenimx̱ used in this story is from the First Peoples’ Map and the Gitsenimx̱ FirstVoices language site. Some variations in spelling may be used by different language users, and in these instances, we have kept the spelling as it was provided to us.
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