Mobilizing and Activating Haíɫzaqvḷa (Heiltsuk Language) and Culture Through a Community-University Partnership




collaboration, culture, digitization, Heiltsuk, Indigenous, language reclamation


The sharing of existing linguistic resources through online platforms has become an increasingly important aspect in revitalization projects for Indigenous languages. This contribution addresses the urgency of such work through the lens of a partnership in support of one language, Haíɫzaqvḷa (Heiltsuk), a critically endangered Wakashan language spoken in and around the traditional Heiltsuk territory of Bella Bella, British Columbia. Alongside immediate community needs for language preservation and reclamation—informed and guided by Heiltsuk values and goals—lie important ethical and practical questions about how best to activate historic recordings of Elders and knowledge holders who have now passed. Our partnership was explicitly structured around the objective of helping to mobilize the large body of existing language
documentation and revitalization materials created in and by the community to support broader community access through digital technologies. Working within the fast-changing digital environment requires agility in order to respond to time-sensitive goals and the strategic needs of the community. Ensuring that such work is grounded in respectful collaboration requires ongoing care, consultation and consideration. The digital landscape is still a new and exciting space, and the opportunities to use online tools and technologies in service of language revitalization are ever increasing. We believe that the strategies, approaches and modest successes of the Heiltsuk Language and Culture Mobilization Partnership may be informative for other community-based language reclamation projects. We hope that outlining our experiences and being transparent about the challenges such partnerships face may help others engaged in this urgent and timely work.


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Author Biographies

Jennifer Carpenter, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre

Jennifer Carpenter has served as Director of the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre since its current mandate program areas goals and objectives were established in 1980. Since its establishment in 2010, she has also served as Culture & Heritage Manager of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department. Jennifer is trained in and passionate about an integrated multi-disciplinary approach in support of cross-cultural awareness, and particularly of Heiltsuk self-determination, self-reliance and self-direction. She holds an MA degree in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia.

Bridget Chase, University of British Columbia

Bridget Chase is a BC-based settler scholar with a BA in Linguistics and a Master of Business Management from the University of British Columbia. With considerable experience in local digital language mobilization, Bridget centres her work around engaging with issues that relate to language and social justice. Bridget is committed to building relationships in order to develop projects that suit specific community needs, and currently works as the Community Success Specialist for FirstVoices, with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

Benjamin Chung, University of British Columbia

Benjamin Chung is a non-Indigenous linguistics researcher and program coordinator with a BA in First Nations and Endangered Languages and Linguistics from the University of British Columbia. With language initiatives in Bella Bella and Vancouver, BC, Ben's work focuses on Indigenous pedagogies and language reclamation. He works both with learners of all ages and Elders.

Robyn Humchitt, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre

Robyn Humchitt is a member of the Haíłzaqv Nation. She has worked at the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre since 2015 as the Resource and Research Assistant and Digitization Technician. Her dual role at the cultural centre combines both of her passions: learning about technology and assisting with the revitalization of Haíłzaqv language, culture and traditions.

Mark Turin, University of British Columbia

Mark Turin is a settler scholar and an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Trained in anthropology and linguistics, Mark is cross-appointed between the Department of Anthropology and the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. Of Italo-Dutch heritage and raised in the United Kingdom, Mark has been working with Indigenous communities on collaborative language documentation and revitalization projects in Nepal, Bhutan and Northern India since the early 1990s, and in western Canada since 2015. He writes and teaches on language reclamation, revitalization, documentation and conservation; language mapping, policies, politics and language rights; and archives, digital tools and technology.


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How to Cite

Carpenter, Jennifer, Bridget Chase, Benjamin Chung, Robyn Humchitt, and Mark Turin. 2021. “Mobilizing and Activating Haíɫzaqvḷa (Heiltsuk Language) and Culture Through a Community-University Partnership”. KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 5 (1).

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