UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reclaiming Kwak'wala through co-constructing G̲wa̲nti'lakw's vision Cranmer, Laura


This dissertation is a self-study about my attempt to re-claim my heritage language of Kwak’wala. As a critically endangered language, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council Report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages 2014 found that of a population of 7,309 Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw reporting to the council about numbers of fluent and semi-fluent Kwak’wala speakers, there are only 160 fluent speakers with approximately 497 identified semi-speakers. I have written from a critical Indigenous Studies stance, drawing from compatible fields such as narrative inquiry and auto-ethnography, and second language acquisition (SLA) theories as well as the growing field of identity theory and heritage language learning within SLA. Further, I asked for and received permission from three Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw First Nations to interview fluent Kwak’wala speakers in response to a sampling of photographs from my paternal grandmother G̲wa̲nti’lakw’s archive. As a teenager and young mother, she took many photos of our relatives who originated from our large clan with connections to far flung villages within the territory. G̲wa̲nti’lakw was responsible for my care as an infant, and during my formative years, and for a while I knew her as Mom until I grew older and could understand my true beginnings and place in our family. Through an autoethnographic narrative and analysis, I provide a reflection on my engagement with Kwak’wala and its speakers and my own identity as a language learner attempting to reclaim Kwak’wala. As an adult learner, I apply my print literacy skills to phonological memories from my childhood in order to deepen my understanding of the how Kwak’wala works grammatically, lexically and syntactically.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada