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WWN, UNBC launch new degree in Nisga’a language fluency

Christopher Morven studied the Nisga’a language at the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute and is looking forward to the new Bachelor of Arts program in Nisga’a Language Fluency. UNBC photo

The Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute (WWN) and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) are helping to ensure the long-term vitality of the Nisga’a language through the creation of the new Bachelor of Arts in Nisga’a Language Fluency degree set to launch in September 2024. 

The new four-year undergraduate degree is the first of its kind in northern B.C. and will offer students an immersive education in the Nisga’a language with about 70 per cent of the courses having a Nisga’a language component. 

“Investing in Indigenous language-fluency programs is critical for strengthening language revitalization and moving towards meaningful reconciliation in B.C.” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, in a news release. “Together, we are creating a province where Indigenous students, and through them their communities, can re-connect with their language as a way to reclaim their history and culture and reach their full potential.”

A key goal of the program is to create new fluent Nisga’a language speakers.

“It is exciting to witness students becoming fluent and using their language skills in public,” said WWN President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Deanna Nyce. “Students are excited and are encouraging others to enrol in WWN-UNBC Nisga’a Language program to earn a certificate, diploma or the full Bachelor of Arts degree.”  

Nyce said the creation of the new Bachelor of Arts degree, which builds on the success of the existing certificate and diploma programs in the Nisga’a language, took a team effort to bring to fruition. She also pays special tribute to the late Allison E. Nyce for her tireless work helping design the program and write the syllabi. 

The degree is offered through UNBC’s Faculty of Indigenous Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities, in co-operation with WWN. Students in the program will study at WWN’s campus in Gitwinksihlkw. The courses will be delivered using the expertise of WWN’s faculty, instructors from UNBC’s Department of First Nations Studies and other UNBC faculty in related programs.

“The new Bachelor of Arts in Nisga’a Language Fluency program builds on UNBC’s longstanding partnership with the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute to deliver relevant and culturally enriching programs in community-based settings,” said UNBC President Dr. Geoff Payne. “By supporting language revitalization in the Nass Valley, UNBC and WWN are helping Nisga’a students deepen their connection with their language, culture and community.” 

Christopher Morven completed the existing certificate in Nisga’a Language and is on the road to becoming a fluent speaker. He says this new program will provide more students with the chance to re-connect with their language. 

“Ḵ’amguyiihl wilhl Sim’oogit Lax̱ha loom̓ wilt din̓akwshlkw loom̓ g̱anhl dip luu-yox̱gum̓.Yukwhl ni siwilaaksiy̓hl dim ni hugax̱am hoosx lip algaxam̓, g̱anhl dim mi  adigwil hooxhl lip algaxam̓. Ḵamguyiihl wilt Ḵam Ligii Hahlhaahl loom̓ wilt gin̓amihl lip algaxam̓. Yukwhl aam dim wilaa ayeehl simalgax looy̓. N̓i g̱an dim luuts’ip hli ga wisihl g̱an-wilaay̓hl g̱anhl g̱anwilxo’oskw loom̓,” Morven said. “We are blessed that the Creator above has blessed us each with a path to follow. I am learning to speak our language properly and will always use our language. Learning our own language will unfold in a good way for me. The roots of wisdom and knowledge will take root in us.”

The new program enhances the educational opportunities available to students at WWN. Through a federated agreement with UNBC, WWN already offers a Master of Arts in First Nations Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in First Nations Studies as well as four certificate programs and one diploma program.

“WWN is celebrating its 30th year of operations with UNBC,” Nyce said. “The launch of this new program is a nice finish to the 30th anniversary.” 

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