Ric Berkholtz an MA student in Jurisprudence in the School of Law, was awarded a summer FLAS fellowship to gain proficiency in X̱aad Kíl or the Haida language.
Originally from Olympia, Washington, I completed my undergraduate studies at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I continued to pursue a Masters in Jurisprudence after becoming interested in learning about how the law works, how it relates to public policy, the importance of treaties to American Indian tribes, and how to apply my passion for environmental justice to the advancement of social change.
I conducted my studies focused on Haida Gwaii after acquiring an interest in understanding aboriginal title in Canada during the Winter of 2020. I wrote a paper about the court case, Haida Nation v. British Columbia (2004), which led to a second paper about the Gwaii Haanas Agreement, and finally a Capstone paper that compared the governance systems of the Haida Nation and the Tlingit and Haida Tribe. I wrote that Capstone to understand and provide reference on the differences between how the law affects tribes in Canada versus how the law affects tribes in the United States.
I am continuing my Haida journey with a small cohort of students who specialize in Haida research for Haida communities by learning the Haida language. The Haida language has fewer than 20 fluent speakers left. It is paramount that the Haida language survives as it is interconnected with the Haida worldview and Haida law. There are Haida words that do not have the same meaning in English. Studying Haida provides me with the chance to continue working with my cohort and to meet new people from Haida communities.