Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé, We Are Our Language curator, left, and Courtney Wheelton, Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre’s cultural program and marketing manager, pose for a photo at the doors of the exhibit on June 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Getting the word out: new exhibit highlights Yukon First Nations languages

The exhibit is on display until Oct. 12

As the world recognizes 2019 as the UN-declared International Year of Indigenous Languages, eight First Nation languages of the Yukon are being showcased with an exhibit, We Are Our Language, opening June 29 inside the Hude Njú Kú Gallery at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. (KDCC)

Curator Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé said the UN recognition led her to come up with the idea for the exhibit. She proposed it to officials at the KDCC.

“Language revitalization is the core of cultural revitalization,” Courtney Wheelton, KDCC’s cultural program and marketing manager said in a June 26 interview.

Emphasizing the support of KDCC for Indigenous language revitalization and the Year of Indigenous Languages, Wheelton said the exhibit made a lot of sense for the cultural centre to host.

A language exhibit is not your typical art gallery display and putting it together is a little different, Vander Meer-Chassé said.

The Yukon exhibit includes documents showing harvest words translated into Tlingit, descriptions of each region of the Yukon and the languages used there, and books and displays showcasing the work of numerous language experts as well as programs throughout the territory.

Many who work in language revitalization aren’t familiar with the process of putting together an exhibit. So as Vander Meer- Chassé began reaching out to those in the field, she began by answering questions and explaining the basics of her work, the project and what she was looking for.

Teslin elder Bessie Kèyishí Cooley provided a wealth of documents, many that were handwritten, to the exhibit. Cooley has taught the Tlingit language for many years and the exhibit shows her efforts.

Among the pieces in the display focused on Cooley and her work are a Tlingit Language Book, a translation of the Declaration of Human Rights, prayer translations and more.

As Vander Meer-Chassé and Wheelton both emphasized, Cooley’s efforts are among many language initiatives in the territory.

“It’s super-diverse,” Vander Meer-Chassé said of what’s happening for Indigenous language throughout the Yukon.

The work ranges from full-immersion programs to social media efforts and productions like the First Nation of Nacho Nyack Dun’s Camp Phrases Book, a tiny booklet, small enough to fit in a back pocket and taken to camp, which translates English phrases like “give me the axe” to Northern Touchtone — “Khwät de”.

Both Vander Meer- Chassé and Wheelton are hopeful the exhibit will not only educate visitors to the KDCC about the Indigenous languages of the Yukon, but also inform those who work in language revitalization of the extensive efforts throughout the territory, possibly providing ideas for their own programs.

The focus, they said, is on the work happening throughout the Yukon to revitalize language and encourage the everyday use of those languages.

The exhibit will feature infographics on eight of the Yukon’s Indigenous languages — Gwich’in, Hän, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish, Tlingit and Upper Tanana.

“It’s a very text-heavy exhibit,” Vander Meer-Chassé said, though she also pointed out that as visitors make their way through the exhibit they will hear audio of people speaking the languages. There are also video displays set up as part of the experience.

A small “nook” in one area of the exhibit will provide numerous resources for those who may be interested in pursuing learning the languages further.

The UN declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to “raise awareness of them, not only to benefit the people who speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our world’s rich, cultural diversity”, it’s stated on the website.

The exhibit will be on display until Oct. 12.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Scott Price, an art handler, hangs part of the We Are Our Language exhibit at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on June 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Just Posted

Patti Balsillie will be running for the mayor’s seat in Whitehorse in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Submitted)
Balsillie aims to serve as city’s mayor

Says she has the time, skill set to serve in full-time role

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton sits on the opposition side of the legislative assembly on March 8 after announcing his resignation from the Liberal party earlier that day. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Don Hutton resigns from Liberal caucus; endorses NDP leadership

Hutton said his concerns about alcohol abuse and addictions have gone unaddressed

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read