CNMN > Projects > Preserving Language Through Music and Film

Julia Weder, Jiixa (Gladys Vandal)

  • Ouvert (définition : partitions pour une instrumentation non spécifiée)
  • Objets trouvés ou matériel artistique
  • Voix
  • Appareils numériques
  • Adultes
  • Ainés
  • Intergénérationnel

Varies - generally 30 hours over a 1-2 month period.

  • Éducation
  • Justice
  • Santé
  • Famille
  • Mémoire
  • Limitations physiques (par ex. Paralysie cérébrale, Sclérose en plaques)
  • La santé mentale

Preserving Language Through Music and Film


A music video pro­ject by the duo Sii­juu Jaa­das Cool Ladies, consis­ting of Hai­da Elder, wea­ver, and lan­guage tea­cher Jiixa (age 84), along with set­tler Julia (age 25). Julia makes the music and film for Jiixa’s lan­guage-sha­ring. The two share a deep bond and a sense of humour that com­mu­ni­cates the Hai­da lan­guage in crea­tive new ways. They are ins­pi­red by Hai­da laws and ways of being, by the power of food and laugh­ter in brin­ging people toge­ther, and by the land and other beings that they share home with on Hai­da Gwaii.

Pre­ser­ving Lan­guage Through Music and Film
Behind the Scenes : Sii­juu Jaa­das Cool Ladies – Hai­da Lan­guage Rap Duo
By Julia Weder, May 2022

Intro : Here is a brief guide on how I approach making music videos with Hai­da Elder and lan­guage tea­cher Jiixa (Gla­dys Van­dal), invol­ving the Xaay­da kil (Hai­da lan­guage, Ski­de­gate dialect).

Quick context on the people invol­ved : Jiixa is like a nanaay (grand­mo­ther) to me. Des­pite being an adop­ted mem­ber of her clan, Ski­de­gate Gidins Naa ‘Uuwans Xaay­da­Ga, it is not my place as a set­tler to claim a sense of owner­ship of the lan­guage. This lan­guage pro­ject was inten­ded to sup­port Jiixa in her own lan­guage-sha­ring and crea­tive visions, as she is huge­ly moti­va­ted to share the lan­guage now that she is diag­no­sed with ALS and has limi­ted mobi­li­ty. As a resident of Hai­da Gwaii and someone com­mit­ted to advan­cing Hai­da sove­rei­gn­ty and res­pec­ting Hai­da law on these lands, I see lear­ning the Hai­da lan­guage as an impor­tant part of this life­long com­mit­ment. I car­ry this gra­ti­tude and pri­vi­lege with me throu­ghout these crea­tive pro­jects with Jiixa. And gee, we have a lot of fun.

STEP 1 : Reflect on your place, res­pon­si­bi­li­ties, and the nuances of your pro­po­sed project.

What is your posi­tio­na­li­ty within the com­mu­ni­ty or folks you are enga­ged with ? What are the pro­per pro­to­cols to fol­low when enga­ging with the Hai­da lan­guage (or any Indi­ge­nous lan­guage or cultu­ral prac­tice)? What are you doing to ensure you are moving beyond “good inten­tions” and prac­ti­cing real self-awa­re­ness ? What is your know­ledge on the topic, and what kind of autho­ri­ty do you have on it ? What is the qua­li­ty of the rela­tion­ships you have built ? Who has control over what is sha­red, and how ? Who bene­fits from (or is har­med by) the work ?

STEP 2 : Think of a theme or sub­ject for your music video.

We thought of han­dy phrases that fami­lies on Hai­da Gwaii might use in eve­ry­day life – eg. around the house, in the kit­chen, on a trip. We wan­ted to mix these in with expres­sions of love and friend­ship, as well as prayers and wise phrases from Hai­da Elders that have been pre­ser­ved. We chose themes like “Food and Friend­ship”, “Tra­ve­ling to the City”, and “Remem­be­ring Lost Children”.

STEP 3 : Have fun and expe­riment with film

We didn’t take our­selves too serious­ly at all when making these rap songs. At spon­ta­neous moments – say, after a meal while sit­ting on the couch – I’d take out my iPhone and ask if Jiixa wan­ted to record snip­pets of video for our next rap song. “Sure!”, she’d smile. We didn’t wor­ry about miming lyrics or any­thing in these snip­pets – we just groo­ved our heads or hips to an ima­gi­na­ry beat, maybe wea­ring a pair of sun­glasses or a hat that was lying around.

STEP 4 : Work on the lyrics.

Jiixa wrote the lyrics for each of our songs, some­times get­ting ins­pi­ra­tion from Hai­da lan­guage books pro­du­ced by the group of Elders invol­ved in the Ski­de­gate Hai­da Immer­sion Pro­gram. I would write down phrases or words that she’d speak out, and repeat them back to her until she was hap­py with the flow and content. Some­times Jiixa wan­ted me to speak/sing the lyrics. Once we had the lyrics writ­ten, we’d audio-record our­selves on the Voice Recor­ding app on our phones.

STEP 5 : Work on the music.

In Gara­ge­Band (free on Apple devices), I made simple beats from the com­pu­ter-key­board within the soft­ware (you can choose from a whole range of ins­tru­ment sounds). I’d make a simple tune over top of a bas­sy beat, then I’d adjust the tem­po of the music until it rough­ly mat­ched the tem­po of our speech / sin­ging / lyrics.

STEP 6 : Edit

This is a fair­ly time-consu­ming pro­cess but lots of fun. I used free soft­ware (iMo­vie) on my Mac­book to edit toge­ther the audio clips, video clips, and music. First I expor­ted the song and lyrics from Gara­ge­band, and impor­ted it into iMo­vie. Then I impor­ted all the video clips and mat­ched them up with the lyrics and music. We added intro and clo­sing slides with our names and eve­ryone who hel­ped out with the project.

STEP 7 : Add sub­titles / captions

It’s good prac­tice to include cap­tions in any video, regard­less of lan­guage, so that it’s acces­sible to non-hea­ring folks. Since our videos are in Hai­da, and the goal was to help people become more fami­liar with the lan­guage and pick up new words and phrases, we’d spell out Hai­da cap­tions in large font and English under­neath, in smal­ler font.

STEP 8 : Share with the community !

We share our videos on Face­book and You­tube, and invite our friends and com­mu­ni­ty to give it a watch. We hope that these videos help moti­vate others to tell sto­ries and use the Hai­da lan­guage in their own crea­tive ways.

Julia’s email is Feel free to get in touch !

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