The State of the Language
Many years ago, when the missionaries and explorers first arrived in this great land, the Gwich'in met people that spoke only English and French. The Gwich'in helped these newcomers survive in their homeland, and in exchange, as prophecy had predicted, the Gwich'in slowly lost their culture and language.
For a century now, our people have been told that if they did not send their children to school, the children would not survive in the world of the non-native. We have been affected immensely by the school system and breakdown of our family structures. Many today attribute their loss of language to the school system and the breakup of the family unit. They felt they were strangers in their own homeland, unable to return to their communities and converse with parents and elders.
Some say that they were ridiculed as young people when they tried, unsuccessfully, to speak the language. Others have said that speaking Gwich'in was not 'cool' and so this is why it is not practiced today.
Those of us who have overcome this adversity are determined not to quit using our language. We would like to continue utilizing it to the best of our abilities. With the help of those who care about the situation, we will begin the journey back to using our language and sharing pride in it.
It's a long road, but we share our aims with other groups who are also working to regain their languages. I hope we can include you in our support network!
Diiginjik zhit ginohkhih ji chan gukagohndaih tsat nekhwedavee gwiheezaa. Hai choo tsat Kegwaadhat nakhwah vili, shilak kat!
Words of William George Firth