Híɫzaqv Language and Culture Mobilization Partnership

Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2016, the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella Community School and UBC’s First Nations and Endangered Languages Program are partnering in an effort to collaboratively create new opportunities for speaking, writing and reading the Híɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) language by expanding and deepening existing community language revitalization and cultural documentation in a digital environment. The partnership brings together students, staff and faculty in Vancouver and Bella Bella by providing spaces to productively combine academic and community goals.

Origins of Language Documentation & Revitalization in the Heiltsuk Nation

Heiltsuk community members have been engaged in language research and documentation for many decades.

The Heiltsuk Nation initiated extensive language research and documentation in 1973. Through its Heiltsuk Language Studies program, the Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre seeks to continue the documentation and revitalization of the Heiltsuk language and has created and compiled extensive resources through the following focus areas:

  • Developing a practical orthography (alphabet) for writing down the Heiltsuk language; 2) recording and analyzing words in order to produce comprehensive word lists, bilingual dictionaries, and taxonomies; 3) analyzing and identifying the basic structure of the Heiltsuk language; 4) recording an extensive body of oral traditions, narratives, and discourses, and transcribing and translating these into English;
  • Assisting and promoting the understanding and interpretation of Heiltsuk culture through linguistic analysis of information recorded or transmitted in Heiltsuk;
  • Promoting and assisting in the development of Heiltsuk language instruction programs;
  • Maximizing use of available and emerging technologies to promote the preservation of and access to Heiltsuk language materials.

The Bella Bella Community School instituted Heiltsuk Language Instruction as a formal part of school curriculum in 1978, and has focused on curriculum development, Heiltsuk Language teacher certification and the pursuit of effective language teaching strategies, and will directly benefit from mobilization of extensive Heiltsuk language research into the digital world.

Current Project Team

  • Jennifer Carpenter (Culture & Heritage Manager, Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department; Director, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella)
  • Janice Gladish (Principal, Bella Bella Community School)
  • Rory Housty (Resource Centre & Research Assistant, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella)
  • Rex Slett (Language and Culture Special Program Liaison, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Bella Bella)
  • Chester Lawson (Elder, retired educator & teacher, Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief)
  • Pam Brown (Curator, Pacific Northwest, Museum of Anthropology & Heiltsuk community member)
  • Kim Lawson (Reference Librarian, X̱wi7x̱wa Library, UBC & Heiltsuk community member)
  • Gerry Lawson (Coordinator, Oral History and Language Lab, MOA & Heiltsuk community member)
  • Lisa Nathan (Assistant Professor at School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, UBC,
    & Coordinator of the First Nations Curriculum Concentration)
  • Mark Turin (Associate Professor of Anthropology & Chair, First Nations & Endangered Languages
    Program, UBC)

SSHRC Report 

In November 2015, the Híɫzaqv Language and Culture Mobilization Partnership was awarded a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada to compile a public Knowledge Synthesis report on the theme of ‘How can emerging technologies be leveraged to benefit Canadians?.’

Entitled Digital Access for Language and Culture in First Nations Communities, the 41-page report is now available for download from:


The Híɫzaqv Language and Culture Mobilization Partnership team are grateful to various funding sources for their support, including but not limited to UBC’s Hampton Fund’s Established Scholar Award, the Remote Community Based Learning Fund at UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, the Office of the Dean (Faculty of Arts) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Please visit our project website http://heiltsuk.arts.ubc.ca to download the Híɫzaqv Unicode keyboard, to search the Híɫzaqv Digital Dictionary and for project updates.

We are grateful to members of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella and beyond, for sharing their knowledge and for their invitation to work in respectful partnership in their traditional territories.