Members of a Vancouver Island First Nation have created a video game designed to teach kids about their traditional territory and language through an interactive canoe journey.
Ditidaht Kids, an app available on Apple and Google’s online stores, was created by members of the Ditidaht Community School Language Department with input from community members — including knowledge from the First Nation’s four remaining fluent Elders.
Creators say the game is designed to prepare kids for Kindergarten at the community school, where they formally begin to learn Ditidaht language.
“It gives them exposure to important words, songs, and stories, but more importantly it allows them the chance to learn about the rich landscape that is their traditional territory,” said community member and daycare director Crystal Amos.
The people behind it, who are all members of the Ditidaht community, say the app will be especially helpful for kids who live off-reserve, but anyone can download it and follow along on the paddling journey.
“This app will help our children hear and learn Ditidaht’s unique sounds. We will be able to share our language and culture everywhere and not just limited to learning only in community,” said DCS Language teacher Sarah Tom.
The language department said there’s a “fracture” in the transmission of language because of the lasting effects of colonization and residential schools.
“We work with our four remaining Elders to create usable and accessible language records and resources for future generations,” it said in a statement.
Ditidaht Kids is just the department’s latest effort to reclaim and preserve their traditional language.
In recent years the school’s language department has undertaken similar efforts to encourage Ditidaht language fluency, like offering classes online that are free and open to everyone.
Creators say they’re taking more innovative measures to teach Ditidaht language because resources and fluency are currently considered low in the community.
“Our culture is stored in language and our work to save our language is gaining momentum,” said Debbie Jeffrey, a voice actor and singer in Ditidaht Kids. “This game is a part of that work.”