Filmmaking program introduces Hesquiaht youth to fluent speaking elders

In a growing effort to revitalize Indigenous languages, Hesquiaht First Nation is encouraging their youth to apply to a free filmmaking program fused with language learning.

Collaborating with Reel Youth, a non-profit organization that delivers community development programming to youth across Canada, each participant will be paired with a fluent speaking elder to collaborate on a video with. 

Together, they will create a storyline that reveals the elder’s personality while incorporating Hesquiaht language throughout at least 50 per cent of the video. 

Over the course of six online classes scheduled in March and April, students will be guided through how to take their project from concept to realization.

Geared towards first-time filmmakers, participants aged 15 to 30 will be mentored remotely using whatever gear they have at their disposal.

Layla Rorick, who coordinates the nation’s language program, said the filmmaking training is an opportunity for youth to honour their fluent relatives by preserving their “legacy.”

All of Hesquiaht’s remaining fluent speakers are over the age of 76. Now is a critical time for the nation’s youth to learn from their elders, she said.

Mariam Barry, Reel Youth program coordinator, said there is incredible power in how a film can transcend through digital mediums and the internet. 

"Young people are the leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “Engaging them with filmmaking and getting them excited about sharing their stories on-screen is something we want to support.”

Funded by Telus STORYHIVE, the program is designed to connect youth to the “heartbeat of their culture” and “amplify their voices,” said Barry.

The program was born from a previous collaboration between Rorick, who prefers to be called by her Hesquiaht name chuutsqa, Reel Youth and the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, which is a leader for culture and heritage in Nunavut.

Over one week in June, they recorded a series of videos written by chuutsqa titled, Son of Raven Learning Series.

Through the story of the Nuu-chah-nulth archetype, Son of Raven, the series was aimed at exploring the principles of mentor-apprentice language immersion and providing language learning techniques.

“He’s a humorous character,” said chuutsqa. “He always puts his full effort into whatever he’s trying to do, but he’s never successful at getting exactly what he wants.”

Following the “bumbling” trickster in his effort to learn another language, chuutsqa said the videos generate “lots of laughter.” 

The upcoming program, ḥaḥuupač̓akukqin – meaning “our teachings informed by knowledge holders” – will enable youth to build on this language archive, documenting a piece of their own history, said chuutsqa.

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