Kangextola Sewn-on-Top: Kwak’wala Revitalization and Being Indigenous

By July 17, 2012Uncategorised

This is the title of Trish Rosborough’s doctoral thesis that she defended brilliantly on July 16. Linda and I were both honoured to be there along with several members of her family and seven members of the examining committee including Dr. Kathy Absolon, from Wilfed Laurier University and Dr. Patricia Shaw who skyped in from Australia. Over a two hour period, Trish held the group spellbound as she explained her work and responded to probing questions from each of the examiners. Her study was conducted through a Kanextola framework, an Indigenous method based on the metaphor of creating a button blanket, the ceremonial regalia of the Kwakaka‘waka. Part of Trish’s study involved two years  in a Master-Apprentice relationship as she studied her own language. Her research included her own journals, personal stories, and interviews with individuals engaged in Kwak’wala revitalization.

The learnings from Trish’s study have significant implications for language revitalization and language learning. Chief among these are that the complexity of the task of Kwak’wala revitalization requires a multi-faceted approach by applying indigenous principles to teaching and learning and must take into account the impacts of colonization.  Further, it is essential to sustain the spirit of the language by maintaining the literal and symbolic meanings that are important in the transmission and maintenance of the culture. Just learning the words is not enough – language learning involves so much more and a large part of this is reclaiming voice, culture and identity.

Trish, with Dr. Rita Irwin, committee chair,
Dr. Shaw on Skype and her button blanket on display,

Each of the examiners recognized the quality of Trish’s work and praised her for her persistence, perseverance, creativity, academic excellence and determination. She received a spontaneous ovation from the examiners – something rare in the academy! We were proud to be there for many reasons. As graduates of UBC, witnessing the rigorous approach of the defence process was gratifying. As colleagues of Trish’s, we know just how hard she has worked to manage her professional obligations and the challenges of her doctoral work. This is a huge accomplishment. And as educators in BC, we are grateful to Trish not only for her initiative in getting the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network started, but for her wisdom and leadership that is creating better and richer lives for countless young people – of all backgrounds.

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