Nuu-chah-nulth Language Gathering coming to Maht Mahs in the ‘race against time’ to save ancestral dialects

Denise Titian, March 12, 2020

NTC Language Program Coordinator Elsie Antuna is taking registrations for those wishing to attend the March gathering. (Denise Titian photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council is inviting everyone to its second Nuu-chah-nulth Language Gathering to be held March 24 – 27 at Maht Mahs gym in Port Alberni.

Elsie Antuna of Ditidaht First Nation has been hired as the NTC Language Program Coordinator. She has been busy for the past six months lining up presenters, organizing catering and registering interested people. 

With only two weeks to go she says she already has more than 100 people registered and estimates there is space enough for about 300 people. 

“We are celebrating languages successes in the communities,” she said, adding that it is important to hold each other up – support the work of others.

The event will kick of with a free breakfast at 8 a.m. on March 24. There will be information tables set up showcasing some work and resources useful for saving the ancestral languages. Antuna plans to have an area set up for elders willing to share their stories.

There will be presentations by the various groups that are working hard with language champions to preserve and grow the list of fluent speakers. 

Staff at Haahuupayak School will share information about the work that they do teaching children the Tseshaht dialect of Nuu-chah-nulth language. In addition, there will be presentations from Hesquiaht, Ditidaht, Tseshaht, Ehattesaht, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ and the Quuquatsa Language Society.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council has an extensive collection of recording of people speaking the old language going back at least to the 1980s. Atuna says NTC’s audio/video specialist Mike Watts will deliver a presentation about the materials that he has saved over the years and the process he must go through to digitize the footage. Once digitized, the content or subject matter will have to be vetted before it is released to the public.

The purpose of the gathering is to share information about the work that is being done to save the Nuu-chah-nulth language. It will also provide an opportunity for participants to have a say in strategic planning for future language work. 
“We’re racing against time, and there’s no time to waste,” said Antuna. 

She said that her nation has only two fluent speakers left and it’s the same story for most Nuu-chah-nulth communities.
NTC Education Manager Ian Caplette says the gathering will go ahead despite concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

“Steps will be taken to mitigate the risks and people that are sick are being asked to stay home,” said Caplette. 

For more information about the NTC Language Conference contact Elsie Antuna at the NTC at 250-724-5757 or email her at