Business names and operating hours will be seen printed in the Haida language. Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP) is encouraging all businesses to participate in the Skidegate sign project. Translations can be acquired through SHIP. (Photo courtesy of Steve Ramsbottom)

It’s a sign for Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii signs will be bi-lingual to respect language

Bilingual signage is a sign of the times on Haida Gwaii, where moving forward is preserving the past.

Haawa or thank you, said Skidegate Haida Immersion Program(SHIP) to those businesses who have participated in the Skidegate Signage program to have their signs translated into the Haida language.

“It has been a dream and wish of the elders for many years that all signage in Hlgaagilda (Skidegate), one day will be written in Skidegate Haida Language,” stated SHIP.

Many business have had their identity banners translated in the effort to preserve the Haida language. The Haida Gwaii community is standing strong behind the Skidegate sign project after SHIP engaged in consultations, said Dana Moraes executive director of Gwaalagaa Naay Corporation (Economic Development Corporation).

“Everyone is really happy when they see the signs in Haida,” Moraes said. “Less than 20 per cent of the population on Haida Gwaii speak the traditional tongue. SHIP has worked hard to preserve the language and translate as much as possible for the archives.”

Steve Ramsbottom owner of Haida Gwaii Designs and Signs said the Skidegate sign project is relatively new for him.

He was provided a Haida glossary of 55 pages, translated by the elders at SHIP, which included the majority of businesses in Skidegate, so they could have Bilingual signs made. The designs and layout of the signs were created by Ramsbottom and the cedar sign frames were built by Arthur Pearson from Tanuwood.

“I feel privileged to work on this project, ” Ramsbottom said, “I like the idea of Haida wording and language being preserved. It is a very difficult language and it’s very interesting to learn more about it. “

READ MORE: Haida story headed to the international stage

SHIP is open to anyone to come for translations needs. Moraes said some days there are four elders translating and some days there are none. The fluent Haida speakers are between the ages of 75 to 95 years. In June 2019, nine Haida elders were conferred honourary Bachelor of Laws degrees for their efforts to preserve the culture and language of the Haida people.

“The goal of the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program is to preserve and revitalize Skidegate Haida Language, and to have it once again become the language spoken in the households of Skidegate and in Haida families living off island, and that future generations of Haida people will be able to speak the Skidegate Haida Language, and pass their language on to their children,” said the Skidegate Band Council website about the immersion program.

K-J Millar | Journalist
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