Steps Toward Revitalizing the Gwich'in Language Through Storytelling.
Principal Investigator: Nichol, Cynthia (1)
Licence Number: 14625
Organization: University of British Columbia
Licensed Year(s): 2009
Issued: Nov 14, 2009

Objective(s): To provide a framework for how educators and community members use Gwich’in stories for revitalizing the language through connections to the land.

Project Description: The goal of this research is to provide a framework for how educators and community members might use Gwich’in stories for revitalizing the language through connections to the land. One aspect of the research involves inviting elders from the community to share their ideas and thoughts about ways to support our youth in learning the language. Elders will be invited to share ideas through a two hour elder’s focus group or dialogue circle that will be audio recorded.

Five or six members of the community will be invited to participate in the focus group. Those invited are known in the community for their interest in the revitalizing the Gwich'in language, for their work in the community, for their ability to articulate their thoughts and traditional knowledge, and for their openness to exploring how students can benefit from the stories of the elders.

Education, training, employment, capacity building: The current state of the Gwich'in language is in need of revitalization. The Gwich'in language is taught from Kindergarten to grade nine. Each class receives thirty minutes of instruction at least four times a week. Presently, students are finishing school unable to speak the Gwich'in language fluently. The 2007-2008 was the first year the Gwich'in language teachers had a formal language curriculum to pilot and the 2008-2009 school year offered the curriculum from Kindergarten to grade nine. One area of concern in learning the language is to find innovative ways to teach students so that they can rekindle the spark to learn the language. The loss of the language dates back to the residential school era, today it is crucial to find ways to revitalize the language using the knowledge of the elders.

Shirley Snowshoe's research involves a critical examination of the research literature on language revitalization and uses Jo-ann Archibald's Indigenous Story work framework of the four R's: respect, reverence, responsibility, and reciprocity, and interconnectedness, wholism, and synergy. Also the insight into Archibald's own reflections on ethics, principles, protocol, time, and synergy provides the guidance for my work. A component of this study involves learning from the elders in the community through a two hour focus group meeting; elders are invited to share ideas for the potential use of stories as a way to engage youth in learning the Gwich'in language. A reason for developing a dialogue circle with elders is that the elders possess the traditional knowledge of storytelling. The elders have kept the stories alive and may have suggestions for how we might use storytelling to inspire students to learn the Gwich'in language.

The resulting paper will be shared with the community through a community consultation brought to a Band Council meeting, to the elder's committee and also to the education council parent's committee at Chief Julius School. GSCI-will receive a copy of the thesis or any other papers, etc.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from November 16, 2009 to December 31, 2009.