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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dene k’éh gūdzededéh : the ongoing conversations of Kaska language reclamation and revitalization Volfová, Martina


In this dissertation I examine the modes of post-rupture claiming, maintaining, and re-shaping of the Kaska homeland, primarily through Kaska language practices, including ordinary interactions, storytelling performances, and various forms of political action. The Kaska are northern Dene (Athabaskan) people, residing primarily in the eastern part of what is now known as the Yukon Territory, and northern British Columbia in northwestern Canada. Dene kēyeh – Kaska land — is the tenacious thread, intricately woven through all aspects of Kaska life, ensuring its cohesiveness and continuity. Dene kēyeh and all the imaginings associated with it permeates everything, including the way people think about and understand their language and how it can be revitalized and maintained. I focus on the Kaska’s contemporary relational and restorative responses to mitigate the disruptive impacts of colonial violence and the ongoing linguistic, political, and economic marginalization. I highlight how these linguistic and semiotic interventions work to assert Kaska people’s rights to their land, which includes rights to their language and cultural practices. In this post-rupture reckoning, my primary goal is to illuminate the many ways the Kaska language has continued to live a remarkably vibrant life, despite the many forces that work diligently to devalue it, attempting to make it disappear. Consequently, the aim of this ethnographic account is not to tell a story about a language in decline. Instead, I focus on the persistent continuance of diverse linguistic practices creatively mobilized by Kaska speakers to attend to their contemporary realities and communicative needs, accomplishing a host of social and political goals. Keeping these “unexpected” vitalities of the Kaska language in mind, I reflect on what these responses can tell us about the future of the Kaska language, and how they might shape and inform future language revitalization movements, and the Kaska language’s trajectory more broadly. Finally, I describe how people envision their future going forward and the concrete actions they are committed to take to carry their language forward for generations to come.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International