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.

Huu-ay-aht moves forward with six modular homes

Huu-ay-aht wants to make its homelands a safe, healthy, appealing place where citizens choose to live. One obstacle to achieving this goal is a shortage of housing. This has been the main reason for a significant push to complete the first phase of the Upper Anacla Subdivision.

In last year’s budget, Huu-ay-aht First Nations Executive Council has established an Independent Housing Panel to explore what is needed within the Nation’s traditional territory. The panel’s mandate is to review Huu-ay-aht’s land use, housing, and related policies, legislation and programs, and recommend practical changes to ensure that the Nation meets its goal of a safe, healthy, appealing place to live.

The Housing Panel has been actively meeting with citizens to gather information, and on April 11 they presented an interim report to Executive Council. As a result of that report, Council approved $2.3 million to be reallocated in the budget to move forward on the first houses in the new subdivision.

Originally a six-plex was planned for the first build. Following feedback from citizens, the panel suggested purchasing six modular homes. These homes will be able to be constructed more quickly than a six-plex. Council approved the recommendation with an arrival date of July 31.

“The housing panel found individual houses are what the community wants,” explained Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis. “Since this will meet the immediate housing need, we approved the recommendation.”

He explained that the Nation may still build the six-plex, but the modular homes will be onsite faster than they could build a six-plex. This will include construction of one four-bedroom, two three-bedroom, two two-bedroom, and one one-bedroom units. A final report will be reviewed by council once costing and other due diligence has been completed. Council must also make a decision on the policy for allocations of the units, including whether they will be owned by Huu-ay-aht citizens or available for rental.

Chief Dennis pointed out that offering the rental option would allow citizens to return to their home without it being a final decision that buying a home would be.

“Rentals allow people to come back and try living at home,” he said. “I think they will love it and want to stay, but this way it offers them that choice.”

Applications for housing can be made through the Huu-ay-aht website at: https://huuayaht.org/housing/

Class Action Settlement Announced for Day School

In March of this year, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett announced an out-of-court settlement with class members in relation to Canada’s establishing and funding of Federal Indian Day Schools and its subsequent control and management of the schools.

As a result, Canada will provide compensation to eligible Survivor Class Members, ranging between $10,000 to $200,000.

According to the release from Gowling WLG, the process to claim compensation will be simple, culturally sensitive, non-adversarial, and user-friendly. To be eligible, a person must have attended one of the identified Indian Day Schools listed on Schedule K to the Settlement Agreement that is available on the Indian Day School website (www.indiandayschools.com).

For more information, please see the attached documentation: Day School Class Action Settlement

Western completes sale of ownership interest in TFL 44 to Huu-ay-aht

Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership (“HVLP”), a limited partnership beneficially owned by the Huu-ay-aht First Nations (“Huu-ay-aht”), and Western Forest Products Inc. (TSX: WEF) (“Western”) announced today the completion of HVLP’s acquisition from Western of a 7% interest in the newly formed TFL 44 Limited Partnership.

“The transaction is a positive step for Western, for Huu-ay-aht and for the Alberni Valley,” said Don Demens, Western’s President and CEO. “This new partnership will directly increase First Nations participation in the forestry sector, while creating greater stability for our business, our customers, and our employees.”

A community celebration and official signing ceremony was held on Huu-ay-aht traditional territory in Anacla to mark the milestone. Both parties signed papers representing their commitment to the new partnership and sealed them with a traditional Huu-ay-aht cedar bark wax seal. 

Huu-ay-aht meets with the Minister of Children and Family Development

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Huu-ay-aht First Nations has made a commitment to ensure that no Huu-ay-aht children are in care. To do this, they have formed a department dedicated to focusing on prevention instead of apprehension.

Part of making this new program a success is working in cooperation with different levels of government. The Government of Canada and the Provincial Government have both made financial commitments to Huu-ay-aht, and this funding has helped Huu-ay-aht implement 30 recommendations made by an independent panel.

Last week, Minister of Children and Family Development for British Columbia, Kathrine Conroy, visited with the members of the Social Services Department and representatives of Huu-ay-aht First Nations at the Port Alberni Government Office.

“I am pleased to be partnering with the province and working hard to create change within our Nation,” explained Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. during the luncheon Huu-ay-aht hosted on March 20. “Our dream is to have all of our children back in our territory. To make that a reality, it will take a lot of communication and partnering with whoever can help us achieve our goal.”

Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin Derek Peters echoed these remarks and added that he is focused on the health and wellbeing of his people. He acknowledged that Huu-ay-aht would not be as far along as it is in its commitment if it weren’t for strong partnerships the Nation has developed along the way.

“It is important that we can sit down and have positive and healthy discussions like we are having today,” ƛiišin said. “We recognize this is a new road we are travelling, but I am positive we will get there.”

Councillor Sheila Charles took the time to ensure the Minister understood what lead the Nation to develop such a bold goal for itself – from the first request she brought to council, to forming an independent panel to explore the subject, and finally implementation of the plan. She said something had to be done to start healing the wounds created by the residential schools. She explained it is essential that the healing of intergenerational trauma begin, or the Nation and its citizens will never be whole again.

“We are told we are trailblazers,” she said. “It takes a lot of heart, resources, effort, and comprehension to offer wraparound support to prevent families from being torn apart. But that is the commitment we have made, and we will get there. We will get to a place where our children are home.”

She acknowledged that Huu-ay-aht can’t do it alone, making the relationships the Nation has made even more important.

Minister Conroy said her dream is that one day everyone will work together to ensure families are coming home and can remain together.

“I respect what you are doing as a Nation, and we want to support Nations with their goals,” she said. “We have to all work together to keep kids at home, close to their culture.”

The minister heard many examples of how the Nation is moving forward, including success stories where children were removed from their home, but eventually Huu-ay-aht was able to intervene to bring children home.

When lunch was served and the Minister had a moment to reflect on the day’s meeting, she said it was extremely informative, and she was glad to have the time to discuss it with everyone.

“It’s really good to get away and meet with Nations to see what’s working and what’s not,” she said. “It’s inspiring to visit and hear what’s going on, and most of all, to hear it is working.”