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Summer FLAS fellows in Haida gather at UW

Lucas Olson, Jaskwaan Bedard, Nicole Kuhn, and Ric Berkholtz stand outside the Burke Museum on a sunny day.
Lucas Olson, Jaskwaan Bedard, Nicole Kuhn, and Ric Berkholtz outside the Burke Museum. Photo credit: Nicole Kuhn.

October 4, 2022

As a Haida woman and a doctoral student at the University of Washington (UW), I have spent countless hours exploring the campus but I have never connected with my learning environment so profoundly as I did with my Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Xaad Kíl (Haida language) class. I am a member of the Skidegate Band of the Haida Nation and a fourth-year PhD candidate at the Information School.

Janessa Chinana's face on a cell phone screen as she connects over Zoom with her FLAS classmates.

Janessa Chinana joins the other FLAS fellows virtually from Alaska. Photo credit: Janessa Chinana.

This summer, our informal Haida research group came together to create the first-ever FLAS Haida cohort at UW. We met online for classes from wherever we were living and visiting — Haida Gwaii, Vancouver, Hydaburg and Seattle. We were always connecting across the U.S.-Canada border, just like our Haida Nation does between what is now called British Columbia, Canada and Alaska, USA. We were all so happy to travel and have the opportunity to spend time together with our Xaad Kíl teacher, Jaskwaan (Amanda Bedard). Our first in-person class was held at the Burke Museum, where together we shared in the joys and deep sadness of discovering many Haida belongings among the collections. We learned for the first time the Haida words for these Haida treasures, deeply processing what this meant for our lives as Haidas and allies.

The next day, we walked through campus with our Indigenous Walking Tour booklet in hand, learning how to describe our surroundings and make sense of each sight and sound through the lens of Xaad Kíl. We shared a delicious meal, learning Xaad Kíl as we ate and laughed together, and walked for miles to sing songs in the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ ? Intellectual House and spend time among the plants at UW’s Native Garden. By day’s end, we were all exhausted but also deeply energized as FLAS fellows who were able to connect our Xaad Kíl language learning with our learning environments in a new, meaningful way.

Jaskwaan Bedard stands in font of a Haida artifact at the Burke Museum.

Jaskwaan Bedard at the Burke Museum. Photo credit: Nicole Kuhn.

As a Haida scholar, I am so very thankful for this gift of time spent together with my Xaad Kíl teacher, Jaskwaan, and my FLAS cohort. This experience has given me the incredible opportunity to connect more deeply and meaningfully with my UW learning environment as I grow in my ability as a Haida scholar to describe my surroundings using my own Haida language. Haawa (thank you)!

The Canadian Studies Center is a recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships program grant. The grant provides allocations of academic year and summer fellowships to assist meritorious graduate students undergoing training in modern foreign languages and Canadian Studies. The Canadian Studies Center is extremely proud in having awarded several Fellowships in least-commonly taught Canadian Aboriginal languages including Inuktitut, Dane-zaa, Musqueam Salish, and Anishinaabemowin. The Canadian Studies Center and Center for Global Studies support the instruction of the Haida language courses.