Janessa Chinana, a doctoral student in International Studies, was awarded a summer FLAS fellowship to gain proficiency in X̱aad Kíl or the Haida language.
I am Sangaalh Staastas Haida raised in the Kaigani (Alaskan) Haida village of Hydaburg, Alaska. It is from that place that I began my passion for community organizing, defending Haida land and water, and acting in accordance with and defending the Haida laws of respect and consent. As a Haida mother and scholar, learning my native language— Xaad kíl—is essential to reconnecting with my history and community, restoring Haida nationhood, and defending our land and water. I have spent years researching Haida history and our political reality. I also have a long history of attempting to reclaim our language from the harsh reality that colonization brought upon us through boarding schools, Christianity, and other forms of assimilation that intentionally and violently attempted to destroy our connection to our identity, land, and language.
The Haida have a shared language across the border that demonstrates our connection beyond settler-imposed identities. Learning this language is necessary for re-establishing these kinship ties across the border, helping us to regain a sense of belonging to a nation. As a Haida scholar and as a Haida woman, making these connections to language will be essential in reclaiming our governance and rekindling relationships that have been harmed by colonial borders and assimilative policies that have dispossessed us.
My plans beyond the completion of my PhD in International Studies from the JSIS will focus on education. I would like to be an educator in Haida and non-Haida communities. My goals involve returning to work for my community to establish land connections and creating spaces for the Haida to reclaim our existence on our homelands while working with a greater community of Indigenous peoples to ensure resurgence that reclaim Indigenous life on all Indigenous homelands. As a post-secondary educator, I will have the opportunity to contribute to a greater movement towards Indigenous resurgence and my knowledge base in Xaad kíl will support these efforts.