Well before my time at a ceremony an elder foreseen that one day the Ktunaxa people would be speaking English in all future ceremonies. At this point in our history we have reached a crucial point in our culture, language, and spirituality, the speakers of our language are at an all time low. At Yaqan Nukiy, our population total 219 with approximately only 6 speakers left who are over the age of 50. We are not producing language speakers or singers, knowledge of our traditional sign language are also dwindling with only 2 or so who can sign. Our beautiful songs number in the thousands, yet to hear these songs are rare and foreign to many of our community and nation members.
In November of 2012, I began to plan “Nupika’s Students Gathering”, a gathering that would have participants re-learn what culture, language, and spirituality we have left. The actual event took place February 19-20, 2013 at the LKB Complex with over 60 participants. Although this gathering was not a ceremony we asked participants to treat it as such so we may be mindful of our behavior and how we treat one another. Participants were also instructed to attend as students and treat the event as school. The teachers of the event attended from Yaqan Nukiy, Aqam, and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.
Some of the gathering topics included:
– Ktunaxa language & interactive language strategies.
– Interactive sign language.
– Creating a personal genogram/family tree to underscore how closely our Ktunaxa people are becoming and the dangers of dating within our Nation.
– Yaqan Nukiy citizen Shelley Jacobs presented on a study that links XP (a form of skin cancer) and close relations (genes).
– Singing and recording of traditional songs. Also, an explanation of what the song means and where the appropriate venue is for the songs to be sung. Which songs may be public and which are private.
– Northern Cree was a guest drum who was invited from Saddle Lake Alberta. This group has found success in incorporating their Cree language into the lyrics of their songs. This language preservation strategy is very popular amongst many drum groups. Discussions took place regarding if this strategy was something the Ktunaxa people wanted to explore with our own drum groups.
– On the final day the student body used the “Signs of Safety” model (a strategic planning model) to brain storm the necessary next steps of what we as a Nation are going to do to preserve our dying culture.
This two day gathering was highly successful but only the beginning of a complex process. Time truly is of the essence as time is our enemy and the responsibility to be pro active lies on each and every citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation. We must use every opportunity in our daily lives to speak and live our culture. From the moment we are born we begin the process of dying. We must make use of every minute of our lives to be Ktunaxa. We are not guaranteed that tomorrow will be given to us but we have today. What we do today directly affects our future and our children’s future. TAXA.
M. Jason Louie
Lower Kootenay Band