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Gyáahlangee X̱íinangaas: Co-creating links between Haida Language Acquisition and Stories Told on the Land

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Title: Gyáahlangee X̱íinangaas: Co-creating links between Haida Language Acquisition and Stories Told on the Land
Authors: Ignace, Marianne
Bell, Lawrence
Finney, Kelli
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2017
Description: In this paper we explore how we can work with legacy recordings of Haida gyá (clan stories) to create positive attitudes towards Xaad kil, and a sense of respect and awe for the deeds of ancestors by re-telling these stories on Haida ancestral lands to participating children, youth and elders. During the 1980s, two of the presenters recorded Haida clan stories of ancestors’ adventures on the land and sea surrounding Haida Gwaii with elders who spoke elaborate Haida, often integrating song into storytelling. As we found out, while on the one hand these are stories pertaining to particular matri-clans, the transmission of these stories was by no means confined to members of the protagonists’ or storytellers’ clans, but involved much more intricate patterns of young children and adults, at an impressionable age hearing these stories and then doing the story-work of remembering, occasionally retelling, and eventually recording them with the authors. Since then, as a team we have transcribed, glossed and translated these gyá, training Haida learners and graduate students in the process. In doing this work, we have discovered interesting and intriguing story plots, and through additional work that uncovered some 650 northern Haida toponyms, we have connected stories in minute detail to specific locations, thus retracing the steps of ancestors. In addition, we have uncovered previously undescribed or poorly understood features of Haida discourse, in particular aspects of verb morphology and features like topic tracking morphology, of which we will show examples. Having finished the anthropological and linguistic work on these stories, the co-authors then shared them with Haida children, youth and adults during on the land language camps on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. Bringing stories alive by re-creating the lived experience of the link to places (in Haida: “he went to the halibut bank just over on that point,” “those killerwhales were fed water from this little creek here, and they beached over there,” “this is where the protagonist went to find out how to get rid of his killerwhale skin”), and re-claiming the songs that go with stories, we have been able to contribute not only to reviving storytelling, but also to re-creating the links between experiencing story, song and connection to land at a young age, where it won’t be forgotten, as our storytellers told us.
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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