Haida man aims to save endangered language through educational podcast

No one should be embarrassed about stumbling when trying to learn a new language, especially if that language is as old as the land itself, says podcaster James McGuire.

He's the creator of the Haida Gwaii Mentor Apprentice Program Podcast, recorded in a studio on the B.C. archipelago, which aims to connect the Haida people with their language.

The Haida language is critically endangered, with only 24 fluent speakers left, according to the council of the Haida Nation.

"It's our duty and responsibility as Haidas to do what we can to try to save the language that was born and raised inside the land we were born in raised in," says McGuire, who also goes by his Haida name of SGaan Kwahagang.

Growing up, McGuire split his time between Haida Gwaii and Vancouver. He says living in an urban environment can make it even more difficult to practise Haida language skills.

"Growing up away from your own community, it can be really hard to stay connected to your culture and your language," McGuire told Carolina de Ryk, host of Daybreak North.

The Haida podcast, which launched in early June, aims to solve that problem. Released through the Haida Gwaii Radio Society, the podcast features interviews and lessons with Haida learners, teachers and elders. 

Submitted by James McGuire

Language revitalization efforts are underway in Canada. The 2017 federal budget committed $89.9 million over a period of three years for Indigenous languages, an increase from the $5 million for the Aboriginal Languages Initiative in the 2016 budget.

As well, the United Nations declared 2019 the international year of Indigenous languages.

McGuire hopes the push for language revitalization has a long-lasting effect on the Haida community. 

He says there is a sense of urgency over saving the Haida language and experiencing it through as many different media as possible.

"One of the main things for sure is to try to get language in songs on the radio or on podcasts, so that we can, as urban Haidas or Haidas at home, just plug in and kind of just always be learning."

Listen to the full story here:

With files from Daybreak North and Chantelle Bellerichard.