Students’ film about the Haida language selected for film festival

  • May. 26, 2008 9:00 a.m.

Submitted by Tiffany Lavoie-The issue of losing the Haida language is one that we have been struggling with for the past 30 years. The Haida language is unique and special because its dialect is not connected to any other language in the world. As more and more elders pass on, so too does our connection to the language. It’s easy to see that there is a major problem and something needs to be done, but it is quite another to step up to the challenge, face what seems to be a hopeless fight and really take a step towards making a difference. G.M. Dawson Secondary School students Raven Hausmann, Amber Good, Jesse Williams, and Justin Klevgaard took the initiative to make a difference and developed a video about the importance of holding onto the Haida language. The movie, called “Islands of the People” made such an impact that it was selected from over 250 submissions to be played at the world premiere of “Youth Producing Change” in New York City. The film will also be played at the “Human Rights Watch International Film Festival”, “2009 Traveling Film Festival”, and “Adobe Youth Voices”. The group made the video because they are worried about losing the Haida language. They wanted to inspire people to fight for the language and really work hard to hold on to it. “It means a great deal to us,” Justin said, “cause if we don’t remember our language we’re going to get farther and farther away from who we are and where we came from”. During a conversation with an elder, Amber and Raven learned that “when people came back from residential schools they couldn’t even talk to their family because they forgot how to speak Haida”. They learned that the children would get strapped when they tried to speak their own language, so eventually they stopped speaking Haida and learned English. “It made me mad and sad because people wanted the Haida to change so much that they couldn’t even communicate with their family anymore.” In the movie Amber states “We still have our dance and art, but we’re not Haida without our language”. The group is hopeful that the Haida language can be brought back if enough people work at it. “There’s a lot of strong people fighting for it. If everyone tries we could learn it again.” On June 20 and 21, Amber, Raven, Justin and Jesse will travel to New York City to show their video at the “New York Human Rights Watch International Film Festival”. They will proudly represent Haida Gwaii with true excellence and greatness. If you would like to see the movie please go to, then click on final language story.