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FLAS fellows to Vancouver Island to study Nuu-chah-nulth

Four FLAS fellows stand together outside on a covered porch
Nuu-chah-nulth immersion session. From left: paasʔatu Bethany Palkovitz; ƛiisƛiisaʔapt̓ Adam Werle (instructor); ʕin̓aak Erick Dowell; c̓aac̓aa Mariah Ribeiro.

October 6, 2023

This summer three Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellows traveled to Vancouver Island for intensive study of the First Nations language, Nuu-chah-nulth.

A total of four UW graduate students were awarded summer FLAS fellowships for the study of an Indigenous language spoken in Canada. One fellow, Ric Berkholtz, School of Law, studied Haida with Jaskwaan Bedard, Simon Fraser University. And three additional students – Erick Dowell, master’s student in Marine and Environmental Affairs and Bethany Palkovitz and Mariah Ribeiro, both doctoral candidates in Art History – studied Nuu-chah-nulth with Adam Werle, University of Victoria (and alum of the Jackson School).

The Canadian Studies Center was the first National Resource Center in the country to award FLAS fellowships for Indigenous languages. Currently, almost 50% of FLAS fellowships awarded by the Center are for the study of Indigenous languages spoken in Canada.

The following quotes are from the three Nuu-chah-nulth language learners:

“There were many highlights to the summer, such as becoming close friends with the other Nuu-chah-nulth learners, but the standout week was definitely the travel to Port Alberni. It was such a privilege to be invited to Tseshaht territory to speak Nuu-chah-nulth with local learners and be welcomed by community members. The immersion was so beneficial to my learning, and the travel and stay on Vancouver Island was spectacular. By the end of the summer, we were able to read traditional stories and have decent-length conversations, all of which emphasized to me the importance and joy of language learning and revitalization.” (Mariah Riberio, doctoral candidate, Art History)

Our instructor ƛukša Adam Werle challenged us from day one, and he brought a wealth of linguistic knowledge to our lessons. I am especially grateful to the Tseshaht language program for hosting our learning sessions in Port Alberni. taaʔisumqa Dawn Foxcroft created a wonderful learning environment with new methods and activities to balance the intensity of immersion sessions for us new learners … Lastly, ʕin̓aak Erick, c̓aac̓aa Mariah, and I bonded over the experience in ways that I know will stretch far into the future. We formed a team that is deeply invested in each others’ success, both personally and scholastically. I am in awe of them, and I am excited to see how our Nuu-chah-nulth learning will influence our work moving forward.” (Bethany Palkovitz, doctoral candidate, Art History)

“The highlight of the summer intensive course was traveling up to c̓uumaʕas (Port Alberni, Canada). Here we finally got to meet almost all of the other language learners in person as well as work with Dawn from the Tseshaht Language House. During that week, I learned so much through the intensive immersion program as well as was able to connect so many vocabulary words with the actual places and things that they referred to while staying in the land that has harbored the language for millenia. Overall, the summer intensive course and the immersion trip were more than I could have imagined and I look forward to continuing my education in Nuu-chah-nulth through this coming academic year and fostering my friendships and connections in this community.” (Frederick Dowell, MA student, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs)

If you are a UW graduate student and are interested in applying for a FLAS fellowship (deadline January 31, 2024), contact the FLAS manager at