What am I doing to keep the Haida language alive?, teacher asks

  • Dec. 1, 2008 4:00 p.m.

A Massett teacher asked school trustees to reflect on the question “What am I doing to keep the Haida language alive?” in a presentation at last week’s school board meeting. Maureen LaGroix, the Queen Charlotte District Teachers’ Association aboriginal representative, said Haida is an example of an endangered language which could survive if there is enough community interest and educational programs. “Our Haida language is our roots. Our Haida language is who we are,” she told trustees and members of the public. She gave several statistics, including that 10 aboriginal languages in Canada have become extinct in the last century, and that second language learners account for more than half of the speaking population among some of the nation’s most endangered aboriginal languages. “I share the statistics with you because we have so few elders left in Skidegate and Old Massett,” Ms LaGroix said. “I ask each one of you, what am I doing to keep the Haida language alive? Or, what am I going to start doing to keep the Haida language alive? The Haida language needs everyone’s support fully.” The percentage of Haida students in islands schools has been steadily rising and Ms LaGroix also shared the latest statistics on these numbers. G.M. Dawson secondary has the highest percentage of aboriginal students at 80 percent, according to her numbers, taken from a January 2008 Ministry of Education report, while Port Clements elementary has the lowest, at 22 percent. Overall, district pupils are 63 percent Haida or other aboriginal, and 37 percent non-aboriginal. Ms LaGroix said she wondered if the amount of Haida content in the curriculum was reflective of these numbers. She also asked the board to develop a plan to recruit more certified Haida teachers to work in the district and to hire only teachers who have taken at least one BC First Nations history course. She would also like to see all teacher training institutions make a BC First Nations history course a graduation requirement.

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