Haida youth, Haana Edenshaw, at the UN in New York City. (JasKwaan Anne Facebook photo)

Haida youth travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

Haana Edensaw presented her speech in Xaad Kil, Masset dialect of the Haida language

A Haida youth spoke of her determination to keep her language alive and thriving at a session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this week in New York City.

Haana Edenshaw, from the Tsitts Gitanee clan, said she was also scared her generation will be the last to hear Haida spoken by someone who was born into the language.

Edenshaw’s April 22 speech at a forum session hosted by Canada, Ecuador and the Assembly of First Nations was delivered in Haida.

“I will not be stuck speaking only the language of my oppressors on my land. It makes my mind sick,” she said in relating how she is learning the Haida language and of her goals of ensuring it is passed on.

“I am determined that my children’s children will once again be born into a world where Haida is spoken all around them. And I hope the same for all Indigenous languages.”

READ MORE: Haida-language film Edge of the Knife showing in Prince Rupert

Edenshaw travelled to New York with the assistance of the Quaker-based Canadian Friends Service Committee.

The forum, an annual event which this year began April 22 and runs until May 3, has a special significance because the United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages with the aim of emphasizing that the right to language is a human right for all people and one that is particularly critical to Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples make up less than six per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest on earth, according to the Indigenous issues forum. They live in some 90 countries, represent 5,000 different cultures and speak the overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.

Here is Haana’s speech as delivered in Haida:

Statement of Haana Edenshaw (in Haida)

K’al jaad ‘aangaa, kilslaay ‘aangaa, Xaadaa ‘laaisis,

Haana Edenshaw hanuu dii kya’aang.

Tsiits Gitanee sduu dii isgaagang. Xaayda Gwaay sduu dii ‘isgaagang.

Iitl’ gyaa Xaadee sduu Xaad kil guwee ‘laasaang han tl’a suugang.

Gyak’it gam Xaad Kil iitl’ gitalang isgyaan iitl’ tak’alang gyuudwang’angsaang, Ahljii dii ga hlGwaagaa Gusdlang.

Gam yaats’ Xaadee kil sGun hl guusuugaa’anggang. Ahljii ahluu dii gudangee st’iigang.

‘Waagyaan, guusduu t’alang ‘isdaasaang?

‘Waadluu Dii jaadaa xujuu sluu dalang ‘waadluwaan dii ahl Xaad Kil ga guusuugiinii.

Dii inaasleehl sluu, sang ‘waadluwaan Xaad Kil dii ahl adeedgang giinii.

Dii Xaad Kil uu iijang.

Iitl’ gyaahlaang Gaa Xaad Kil uu iijang, taawee hansan, iitl’ kil ‘laa hansan, iitl’ kil gulaa hansan.

Weed dii hit’an inaas uu iijang, GwaaGanad Xaad Kil Gii ahl dii hlGangulaang. ‘ll k’ul jaad uu iijang. ‘Ll Xaad Kil sk’adada ‘leeyga uu iijang. ‘ll k’yaa yahgudanggang, ahjii awaahl Gagwii sda iijang. Gudanxeewad aa. T’alang gud ahl stuujuuwaang; GwaaGanad gin k’uugaa dii ahl sk’adadang, isgyaan Xaad Kil dii ahl ‘ll sk’adadang.

Dii gitalang ‘inaas sdluu, nang k’ayas ‘laa ahl gyaahlaang ‘ll suudaasaa ‘ujaa?

Xaad Kil sk’adaga ‘leeyga iitl’ aa hl sk’aadaasaang. Gutgwaa Xaadgee ‘ineelsaang sluu, Xaad Kil ‘laa ahl gyuudaansaa ga dii gudanggang. Giitsgwaad tliisluuwaan t’alang ‘waadluuwaan Xaad Kihlga guusuusaang.

Dii yaalaang hlGaangulaas hl isdaasaa ga dii gudanggang.

Dii t’akaan kaaysaa sdluu, t’alang ‘waadluwaan Xaad Kil ga guusuusaang. Giitsgwad waadluuwaan Xaadgee gya tlagee hansan.

Dalang ‘waadluwaan ahl kil ‘laagang. Haw’aa.

Hu tlaan Geelgang. (that is all).

And here is Haana’s speech in English:

Respected women, respected men, good people.

My name is Haana Edenshaw.

I am from the Tsiits Gitanee clan on Haida Gwaii.

They say my language is dying.

I am scared that my generation will be the last to hear Haida spoken from someone who was born into the language.

I will not be stuck speaking only the language of my oppressors on my land. It makes my mind sick.

But what are we doing about it?

When I was younger I did not feel like my language could disappear.

I grew up with the Haida language all around me, and I cannot imagine my life without it.

Haida language is who I am.

It is in our stories, it is in the food we eat, it is in how we greet each other, it is in how we tease each other.

Now that I am older I have the privilege of working as a language apprentice learning from GwaaGanad, who is one of the few that still carry the language within her. Her name is an ancient one, going back to the time of godanxeewat. She not only teaches me Haida, but we also visit, she teaches me how to cook Haida foods. She tells me stories.

When my children are young will they be able to hear any Elders tell their stories in Haida?

I know there will always be teachers.

But I want future generations to be able to grow up immersed in the Haida language, and I hope that one day we can speak Haida fluently as a community again.

I am determined to carry on the work of my parents.

I am determined that my children’s children will once again be born into a world where Haida is spoken all around them. And I hope the same for all Indigenous languages.

I respectfully thank all of you for listening. Thank you.


Haida Gwaii Observer
Newsroom 
Send email
Like the Haida Gwaii Observer on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Military called in to remove inert practice round found in Quesnel industrial park

A maintenance worker mowing the grass found the round, which turned out to no longer be explosive

Ranch Musings: No-till pasture rejuvenation and sivopasture trials

Columnist David Zirnhelt is hosting a field day Aug. 29 in Beaver Valley

Meet Tour de North cyclist Chris Fedoruk

Quesnel man is a community rider with this year’s Cops for Cancer team

Forestry Ink: Forest tenure changes are occurring throughout the world

Regular columnist Jim Hilton writes about forest tenure and ownership

Quesnel Safeway honours its volunteer shoppers

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Safeway’s volunteer shopper program

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read