There are 8 distinct Indigenous languages spoken in the Yukon: Gwichʼin, Hän, Kaska, Northern Tutchone, Southern Tutchone, Tagish, Lingít, and Upper Tanana. Together they represent about 15% of Indigenous languages in Canada.
Community-based language workers in Yukon's 14 First Nations have created digital video recordings of Elders speaking in their Indigenous languages. The project has helped increase local capacity throughout the Yukon for documenting language using technology, and developed a library of new digital resources for language education, revitalization and promotion.
The work was supported in part by the NRC's Indigenous Languages Technology Project.
- Yukon Native Language Centre (YNLC), a department of the Council of Yukon First Nations
- Create, annotate, share and preserve high-quality digital video recordings of Yukon First Nations Elders speaking in their Indigenous languages
- Train community-based language workers in applying current best practices in language documentation
- Increased local capacity for the use of technology in language documentation activities throughout the Yukon
- Library of new digital resources for language education, revitalization and promotion involving all Yukon First Nations languages
The Yukon Native Language Centre supported trainees from all 14 Yukon First Nations in a 10-month program to acquire practical skills in developing, disseminating and revitalizing digital language materials in their communities. Each trainee had the goal to produce approximately 10 to 20 short videos (3 to 5-minutes) in their community's language(s), resulting in 520 to 1300 minutes of documentation.
Trainees, Elders, and their First Nations determined the topics of these videos together to ensure they address the needs of local language programs and respect cultural protocols concerning the sharing of information. They may include conversations between fluent speakers, traditional stories, discussions of laws and cultural practices, and community and personal histories. Recording authentic language use in realistic communicative contexts, including gesture and facial expressions, addresses long-standing gaps in the resources available to local language programs, where models of fluent speech are urgently needed.
Trainees learned the required skills through 3 community-based workshops facilitated by the Yukon Native Language Centre in Whitehorse. After the first and second workshop, trainees also returned to their communities to connect with speakers and language departments to plan their project and make the recordings they would need to work on during subsequent workshops.
Workshop 1: Creating digital language materials through collaboration
- Discussion of ethical considerations in community language work; copyright, intellectual property, and Yukon First Nations traditional knowledge systems
- Training with audio and video recording equipment: use of Community Recording Kits, basic recording and editing techniques
- Training in file and records management: transferring and organizing media files, managing metadata, performing regular backups
Workshop 2: Transcribing and translating digital language materials
- Training on transcription, translation, and annotation methods (oral, written)
- Additional training in file and records management for annotations
- Video recording of fluent speakers
Workshop 3: Sharing digital language materials
- Training on sharing subtitled videos for DVD, on websites, and through social media
- Training on repurposing video materials for classroom settings and multimedia presentations
- Video recording of fluent speakers
After video documentation, videos were preserved to archive quality and made accessible to Yukon First Nation communities for curriculum and resource development for language advocacy, promotion and proficiency development. This new library will be useful in language learning and the creation of language learning resources, and will help transmit stories, knowledge, legends, tradition and way of life to future generations.
Yukon Native Language Centre
- Tina Jules, Director, Yukon Native Language Centre
- Krista Dempster, Curriculum and Resource Coordinator
- Sharda Ayotte O'Connor, Kluane First Nation, Southern Tutchone (Kluane)
- Sammy Taylor, Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, Hän (Dawson)
- Shannon Reed, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, Northern Tutchone (Carmacks)
- Autum Jules, Teslin Tlingit Council, Tlingit (Teslin)
- Joseph Hayes, Taa'an Kwachʼan Council, Southern Tutchone (Taʼan)
- Paul Caesar, Liard First Nation, Kaska (Liard)
- Douglas Joe – as Rover, Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, Southern Tutchone (Aishihik)
- Gary Johnson, Carcross and Tagish First Nation, Tagish (Carcross)
- Jordan VanderMeer, White River First Nation, Upper Tanana (Beaver Creek)
- Daniel Alfred, Selkirk First Nation, Northern Tutchone, (Pelly)
- Ryan Bob, Ross River Dene Council, Kaska (Ross River)
- Randel Kendi, VunTut Gwich'in First Nation, Gwichʼin (Old Crow)
- Chris and Olivia Cox – as Rover (Workshop 3), First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Northern Tutchone (Mayo)
Fluent speakers by language
- Gwichʼin: Ruth Carrol, Randel Kendi, Mary Decker
- Hän: Angie Joseph Rear, Percy Henry, Ericka Scheffen
- Kaska: Jocelyn Wolftail, Dorothy Smith, Sean Smith, Louis Smith, Dennis Porter, Grady Sterriah, Hammond Dick, Maggie Dick
- Lingít: Barb Hobbis, Norman James, Bessie Cooley, Sam Johnston
- Northern Tutchone: Grace Wheeler, Mary Battaja, Agnes Charlie, Emma Alfred
- Southern Tutchone: Margaret Workman, Agnes Johnson, Earl Darbeshire, Lorraine Allen, Audrey Brown, Liz Gladue, Mary Anne Joe, Mary Jane Allison, Stephen Reid, Lena Johnson, Margaret Johnson.
- Upper Tanana: Marilyn Sanford, Jennie Sanford
Roland Kuhn, PhD
Principal Research Officer, Project Lead
Indigenous Languages Technology Project