U'Mista Cultural Centre

The U’mista Cultural Centre, working in partnership with SFU’s First Nations Langugage Centre under a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, is in the midst of a multi-year project to produce a Kwak’wala dictionary in both print and digital form. This work is focused on: combining and standardizing the two existing dictionaries (Franz Boas & David McC. Grubb); adding new entries to the composite dictionary to assist with usage; recording audio clips of words & phrases; creating print and digital dictionaries available to language learners. The language information generated through the dictionary project will also be of benefit to the development of our Language Tutor App with much of the information being directly transferable.

Language revitalization is important to all Kwakwaka’wakw. This project will help to strengthen, promote and document the language, directly benefiting U’mista and all Kwak’wala speakers and learners and falls within our mandate. The sample sentences are especially important for new language learners helping with sentence structure, pronunciation and comprehension.

Some of the goals that are pursuing in this  partnership are those that have been defined by Elders, speakers Chiefs and Kwakwaka’wakw community members for the U’mista, namely:

  • Identifying Kwak’wala speakers, both in the traditional territories and in urban centres. Recording, collecting and transcribing Kwakwaka’wakw language knowledge (vocabularies, linguistic expressions, stories and myths).
  • Creating networks of speakers within each community and cross-linking them to families, schools and individuals, thanks to community meetings, IT technologies and media (integrated computer media systems & broadcasters),
  • Production of specific dictionaries – based on collected data from speakers and published texts –pertaining to specific sociocultural and socioeconomic domains and activities, like terminologies proper to given semantic fields (e.g. systems of traditional beliefs; ceremonies & potlatches, health, family, food, plants, numeration, and so on). These dictionaries will be on-line and accessible to both the communities and school systems. They will also constitute teaching and learning tools.

In order to achieve these goals, we have set up at U’mista an organizational structure that comprises speakers, researchers and database managers. The U’mista Cultural Society is proud to be participating in this partnership initiative.