Class is in session at Dididaht Community School where students are speaking and singing the language that Dorothy Shepherd was banned from even uttering a word of when she was sent away to Nitinat Residential School at eight-years-old.
“I’m very proud how they are not afraid to step up and do what they have been asked to do,” said Dorothy Shepherd.
The students have been tasked with saving their Dididaht language from extinction.
“It’s pretty hard but you can learn it,” said Grade 9 student Josie Marchand.
It is a responsibility that Larissa Lamb isn’t taking lightly.
“It means a lot to me,” said Lamb, a Grade 10 student. “I’m happy that this school is willing to go through all the struggles that they’ve had the past and just keep the culture going.”
It is the language of their ancestors that hasn’t been spoken for decades. Pat Patterson remembers his mom being afraid to speak it and now teaches it to the next generation in her honour.
“It was really important to her she was just too terrified to speak any of it,” said Patterson.
The Dididaht language was nearly lost just a few years ago when elders and educators in this tiny community of 250 people fought to see it saved. Now their goal is to have all of the town’s young people speaking it fluently in years to come.
“Yes,” said Dorothy Shepherd. “I think we are accomplishing what we set out to do,” she said.
To celebrate, the teachers and students have produced a video in the Dididaht language and have posted it to YouTube to share their accomplishment with the world.
In the video, they are singing proudly in the Dididaht language and celebrating their unique identity, that was nearly lost only to be saved in the nick of time.