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Tsek’ene language revitalization

December 23, 2020

My name is Tsudoi Wada. I am a general linguistics graduate student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Washington. My main fields of interest are endangered and under-documented languages, language documentation and preservation, and semantics. My research is focused on the Dene language Tsek’ene, spoken in northern British Columbia, Canada. I have travelled to the region where it is spoken multiple times over the past several years and worked with the people who speak it as a part of the process of documenting and preserving the language. In order to support my studies, I have applied for and received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for three consecutive academic years. The FLAS has been extremely helpful in aiding my language studies as well as my research. The language learning has been very helpful for my research and the area studies coursework has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the history and present-day situation of the First Nations peoples of Canada. I have been very thankful that I’ve been given these opportunities to not just learn the Tsek’ene language but also to learn a great deal about the First Nations peoples of Canada.

During my fieldwork trips to Canada I travel to relatively remote areas of British Columbia. I am always stunned by the natural beauty of the land. I have also found working with the tribal elders and members of the tribal administration to be very pleasant. I’ve learned a great deal about the culture and history of the Tsek’ene peoples from descriptions or stories I’ve heard from the elders. The band administration has also been essential in arranging travel and lodging in the village where I conduct my fieldwork. They have also provided me with opportunities to join the community in their gatherings and recreational activities.

The preservation of language and culture is an important topic for Indigenous Peoples in both Canada and the United States. I believe the shared experiences of language revitalization can be a great resource for all Indigenous Peoples in North America. The collection of language data, the archival process and transforming that into practical materials for language speakers and learners is a long process. This can involve a great deal of trial and error. Sharing what strategies have been successful can improve methodology for language preservation and documentation for bands and communities that do not have extensive language resources.

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.