If you are driving around on the Nak’azdli Reserve, you might take notice of a small change in places.
The change is not drastic, but it is dramatic in some ways.
The difference is a sign – literally.
Stop signs on the reserve are being changed from the traditional English-language signs to a bilingual sign, with Dakelh (Carrier) at the top and the English version underneath (if you haven’t seen one yet, “’Etsul” is the Dakelh word appearing at the top of the sign).
While the signs are a small thing, as everyone will automatically know what the sign means, whether it says “Stop” or “’Etsul” because we are completely programmed to recognize the colour and shape of the sign regardless of the words printed on it, it still is significant.
The signs indicate the beginnings of a restoration of balance long lost, a balance of acknowledgement, pride and respect of a culture and its language, and of the people who lived on this land for many generations, before any of the current occupants came along.
One word on a sign does not signify total transformation, but it is exciting to see the integration of a suppressed culture back to its rightful place in the mainstream.
While schools in the community have been teaching Dakelh language and culture for years, until the language and culture is brought out of the school and into the lives of adults and the community, it will not truly be integrated and it will continue to be left behind.
This community is made of up of a diverse range of strong individuals, with pride of place, and it is time to celebrate the strengths of the culture and language of the Aboriginal Peoples alongside those who came so much later.
Musi Nak’azdli for this great step forward for the community.