The Tahltan language is Na-Dene (or Athapaskan) and is typically grouped with Tagish and Kaska as distinct dialects within a single language family.
Tahltan, like all Na-Dene languages, is based in oral tradition. That means that historically it was taught and learned almost exclusively through oral communication such as dialogue, story, song and dance. It is only recently that a formal Tahltan system of writing has been developed.
The development of the Tahltan writing system is an important milestone in the history of our language and culture. Like other Indigenous languages throughout British Columbia and Canada, Tahltan faces a great risk of extinction. The ability of new generations of Tahltans to learn Tahltan through experiential, visual and Western techniques is important to ensure it is preserved for the future.
A major effort to revitalize the language is now underway.
How can we preserve our Tahltan language?
Our language is critical to our cultural survival. Didene E Kune Mehōdihi Eku Desijihi: “All Tahltan people are living the Tahltan way of life.” Tahltan Nation is creating a Tahltan Language and Culture government effort that will provide governance and guidance in regards to the revitalization of our language.
This is especially important as our Nation embraces increased development and outside influences into our communities.
The purpose of the department would be to: govern language-related initiatives, develop language-based policies, develop a plan for community language revitalization, implement language revitalization projects, and certify language teachers.
Our children need to be learning the Tahltan language as soon as they are born. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on early childhood programs that involve young children and their parents in language training.
Language classes from grades K-12 also need development, and teachers need more training, accreditation, and learning materials.
Immersion programs are another option, where our young people get out on the land with Elders and fluent speakers more often so that they can learn about the connection between language and land.
Lastly, adult language learning, post-secondary courses, and culture camps will all get the community on board with learning Tahltan.
In order to carry out this important work, a Tahltan Nation Language Plan needs to be developed, which will support the vision of language and culture articulated at the Tahltan Leadership Forum in March 2012. There will be career opportunities in language revitalization for many of our people.
It will be crucial to record and document the language with dictionaries, audio and video recordings, and books. There are old recordings to draw from, and new ones will be needed too.
The Tahltan Language Revitalization Coordinators and Research Assistants are utilizing iPods to record language data with family members in an interactive day-to-day basis.
By promoting our language and creating awareness about how it connects us to our land, we will empower our nation as one Tahltan people.
Want to learn Tahltan? Contact us!
Tahltan Language Revitalization Offices
Iskut: (250) 234-3064
Dease Lake: (250) 771-4000
Telegraph Creek: (250) 235-3151
- Language & Culture Lead: Judy Thompson
- Language Revitalization Coordinator: Oscar Dennis
- Language Research Assistants: Odelia Dennis, Reginald Dennis, Ryan Dennis, Verna Vance and Sonia Dennis
These language revitalization efforts are a key part of the “Socio-Cultural Working Group” where Tahltan leaders sit at the decision-making table with federal and provincial authorities to steer our Nation’s health, training and language programs in the right direction.