1) In Russia:
…So the main task is survival. Mr Heinapuu and his colleagues try to bolster their kinsfolk’s language and culture and highlight Russian chauvinism. The first is difficult. In the two-room world headquarters of the Finno-Ugric movement in Tallinn, Mr Heinapuu proudly shows a shelf of newly published poetry in Mari and other languages. It is a drop in the ocean. “What we really need is the ‘Da Vinci Code’ in Udmurt,” a colleague ruefully complains.
A more promising idea is to bring students from the Finno-Ugric bits of Russia to study in Estonia. That initiative, the Kindred Peoples’ Programme, began in 1999. It was meant to create expertise, expose students to western society, and boost morale.
It hasn’t worked out like that, though. Half the 100-odd students decided to stay. “These were the first towns they had ever lived in. They adapted too well, and those that went back had problems with Russian life,” says Mr Heinapuu. Now the focus has shifted to graduate education. And the money involved in the student programme is tiny: just 3m Estonian kroons ($230,000). Rich Finland gives only a bit more, Hungary almost nothing.
With only eight competent speakers left, the Ditidaht language is on the verge of vanishing, along with half of the languages now spoken around the world…
So the Ditidaht are fighting back.
The survival of their language now hinges, perhaps, on three tiny bodies crammed together on a couch in the Asaabus daycare. The giggling children are the first to take part in a Ditidaht language-immersion program that begins in early childhood.
“Qaatqaat, hiihitakiitl, hi7tap7iq, kakaatqac’ib,” recites four-year-old Krissy Edgar, singing and doing actions to a Ditidaht equivalent of Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.
It has been three years since the band council approved construction of the $4.2-million Ditidaht Community School to teach students their language and culture from kindergarten to Grade 12. Previously, village students were bused out to an English-language school.
Already, the village is astounded by the program’s success, Elsie Jeffrey, the language co-ordinator for the 70 children enrolled in the school, said.
“We’re doing whatever we can to document what’s left. We’ve put out CDs, DVDs; we’re working on digitizing the language on FirstVoices.ca,” she said, referring to a website that holds audio records for 15 endangered native communities.
“We just have to do what we can because we’re endangered.”
(Matthew Kwong, reporting in The Globe and Mail. Thanks, Derryl!)
Incidentally, Ditidaht used to be called Nitinat:
The indigenous name is /di:ti:dʔa:ʔtx/. This was originally the name of the group around Nitinat Lake. It was later extended to include all Ditidaht-speaking people. The currently favoured English name Ditidaht is an adaptation of the indigenous name. The more widely used English name Nitinat reflects the fact that the indigenous name used to be pronounced /ni:ti:n?a:?tx/. After the name was borrowed into English, Ditidaht /n/ changed to /d/.
The Ethnologue considers Ditidaht a dialect of Nuuchanulth (which it calls Nootka). This view is not generally accepted among specialists in Wakashan languages.