Keeping the Nuu-chah-nulth language alive, numaqimyisʔaqsup ʔiš hinatinyis

Angie Joe (numaqimyisʔaqsup) is one of Huu-ay-aht’s last fluent Nuu-chah-nulth language speakers. She is passionate about ensuring the language lives on in the next generation of Huu-ay-aht.

Numaqimyisʔaqsup is often called on to help pass on her knowledge. Most recently, she has been working closely with hinatinyis (Brittany Johnson) as she navigates her way around her language teachings. Hinatinyis is the Nation’s Language and History Coordinator. Part of her role is to find ways to revitalize the language, but first she must learn it herself.

Hinatinyis has been taking the UVIC Language Revitalization Diploma Program since the summer of 2018, offered remotely at the North Island College. The program is designed to create language teachers, it is a full-time course load of four classes per semester, and covers many different learning styles varying from linguistics, immersion-based learning, mentor-apprentice, and self-directed study.

What started off as a get together, translating children’s nursery rhymes for the Pawaats daycare, turned in to a 700-hour mentor-apprenticeship. Hinatinyis and numaqimyisʔaqsuphave spent that time working together, travelling back and forth from Sarita (where numaqimyisʔaqsup lives), learning the Nuu-chah-nulth language.

After the first 100 hours in the program, the two applied for funding from the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). They were approved and granted another 300 hours. After they completed with the funding from FNESC, they applied for another grant from First People’s Cultural Council and were granted another 300 hours.

With the support of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, hinatinyis has had the privilege of learning the language as part of her job. With that, she has been able to complete the first year of her program as well as completing the 700 hours with numaqimyisʔaqsup.

“For those who are hoping to make Nuu-chah-nulth their second language, you need to make time in your life for language,” she explains.

She was inspired by an elder who visited her class, who said, “You need to speak it everywhere and use it every day.” From then, hinatinyis asked her family and friends to call her by her traditional name instead of her English name Brittany. Her name was gifted to her by her grandmother, it means “she is always welcoming.”

The diploma program ends in December 2019, and Hinatinyis says that is not where her learning ends. It is a lifestyle choice.

She plans to teach Nuu-chah-nulth language in Port Alberni and share lessons on social media. She would like to run an adult immersion group weekly that is open to all Nuu-chah-nulth learners and run various workshops for youth and adults. In the meantime, she is working on creating a short curriculum for youth to use while they play online games like FortNite. You can also find a basics pronunciation guide created by hinatinyis online at  www.huuayaht.org.

One thought on “Keeping the Nuu-chah-nulth language alive, numaqimyisʔaqsup ʔiš hinatinyis

  1. Congratulations Hinatinyis how wonderful to hear of the progress you are making in learning our language. You will inspire many young people to follow your footsteps to become the fluent in speaking the language. We are now in the generation where the federal government through Residential Schools will no longer force the language out of us.
    I am very proud of you, keep up the wonderful journey you are on.

    Naa-na-himyis (Marge White)

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