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Northern B.C. First Nations create free Dakelh language app

Stellat’en, Nadleh Whut’en and Ts’il Kaz Koh jointly developed the app for Android users
Language App Tutorial 2
Dakelh nekhunik yats’ulhduk tutorial on YouTube.

Three Carrier Sekani First Nations have collaborated to develop a regional central dialect Dakelh language app.

The app, now available for Android, is aimed at increasing the number of Dakelh speakers and addressing loss of language in Dakelh communities.

Stellat’en First Nation, Nadleh Whut’en and Ts’il Kaz Koh jointly developed the app for Android users with funding from the Pathways Forward Agreement, an agreement made between the provincial government and the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council to increase economic opportunities for Carrier Sekani First Nations.

“Your language is your sense of belonging and identity,” says Eleanor Nooski, Nadleh Whut’en Language and Culture Coordinator, in a news release.

“Once the children start learning, there’s so much pride when the Elders see it, and there’s a ripple effect in the whole community.”

The app is called ‘Dakelh nekhunik yats’ulhduk,’ which translates to English to mean ‘we will speak like our ancestors.’

It interfaces users with recorded pronunciations of the words spoken in a regional dialect of Dakelh. Traditional learning through oral history has been easily incorporated into the app.

The Dakelh language content is also accessible on desktop through the website FirstVoices.

A previous version of the app was developed strictly for iPhone, but was cost-prohibitive for community members who cannot afford Apple products. The new app includes over 900 newly recorded words in a shared dialect between the three nations and is fully owned and copyrighted by the communities.

“Our language was never recorded and never written,” says Stellat’en First Nation Language Assistant Dennis Patrick.

“It’s been a generation that’s lost virtually everything, and it’s important to know that when we learn this language, we’re learning about the land and who we are.”

Work on the app began in 2014, when elders and youth stayed in a hotel together to record Dakelh words for things like body parts, animals and phrases. Then in 2018, the three First Nations began collaboration on building the app for Android.

Carrier Sekani Tribal Council says collaboration between the three communities was key because the number of fluent speakers in each community varies, with Nadleh Whut’en having such low numbers, developing the app independently would have been very difficult.

Ts’il Kaz Koh Language Program and Culture Coordinator Sherry Tibbetts said she believes this app is an important part of healing through language and cultural activities. She added she’s happy to be a part of the collaborative approach to teaching language in new ways.

“We live in a time when we have to be creative and innovative in everything we do,” says Tibbetts, who credits her close colleague for empowering her to take bold action to help her community.

“I’ve been inspired by Karen Sharp. She taught me that everything you want to do, think beyond the impossible. When opportunity’s thrown at you, you take it.”

‘Dakelh nekhunik yats’ulhduk’ is available for download on Android.