Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga: Bringing Together Physical Activity and Language Revitalization for People of All Ages

 May 22, 2019
Posted by smiklosovic

On May 8, members of the NWTRPA Board of Directors and staff were in Behchokǫ̀ to celebrate the completion of the Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga language videos, along with Elders, TCSA staff, students from Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School, and community leaders and members.

Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga was developed by staff at Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀ (Jimmy Erasmus Seniors Home). It is a series of actions that mimic land-based activities like checking nets and chopping wood. The class, which is taught in Tłı̨chǫ, is a culturally appropriate, community-developed exercise program for older adults.

Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus staff shared the program at the NWTRPA conference in 2017, to the delight of the other delegates. After the conference, the NWTRPA approached the staff at the Elders home about sharing the story of Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga with others through film. Produced in collaboration with Tłı̨chǫ filmmaker Amos Scott of Adze Studios, a short video about Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga was released in June 2018.

Inspired by the popularity of the video, as well as the potential of Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga for language learning and promoting healthy living, the collaborating organizations—Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀, the NWTRPA, the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency, and Adze Studios—decided to continue to work together. The goal of the new project was to create a series three videos that use Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga to support Tłı̨chǫ language learning for speakers of different abilities.

Based on the principles of total physical response, the videos, through a series of narrated actions, link language learning with bodily movement. This has been demonstrated to promote longer-term language acquisition. This project further supported language development and confidence building in adult Tłı̨chǫ speakers through their participation in the creation of the videos.

Every session opens and closes with: Dııdzęę̀ gha ması̀ ts’ı̨ı̨wǫ (which translates as thankful for today).

The videos provide Tłı̨chǫ of all ages, but especially Elders, with culturally appropriate exercise rooted in Tłı̨chǫ language, culture, and way of life. Each video contains archival images of Tłı̨chǫ performing land-based activities, such as paddling a canoe, picking berries, and walking a trail. In this way, the videos further ground the actions in Tłı̨chǫ culture and also connect viewers to the past.

When the staff at the Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀ do Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga with Elders, the series of activities changes depending on the season and the leader. For the videos, the staff decided to focus on summer activities. They began by identifying a selection of activities that included shooting ducks, washing clothes, and dancing. They then worked with language staff from the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency to develop phrases of varying complexity for each action.

The actions were filmed by Amos Scott and Mason Mantla at the Spiritual Gathering site on Russell Lake. Two students from Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School, June Sanspariel and Brook Naedzo, participated in the videos to demonstrate the intergenerational possibilities of Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga. The narration was recorded at the Khon Go Cho Complex in Behchokǫ̀.

All of the videos are introduced by Rosa Mantla, Tłı̨chǫ language and culture coordinator with Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency. Rosa welcomes viewers and provides some context for what follows, including the origins of the program. Each video has a different narrator: Įłè (One) is narrated by Beatrice Naedzo, activity coordinator at Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀. Nàke (Two) is narrated by Regina Lafferty, day program coordinator Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀. Taı (Three) is narrated by Nora Wedzin, language coordinator with Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency.

With the exception of the photo credits, which are necessarily in English, the entire video is in Tłı̨chǫ. Not only did the project team want to create an immersive resource for language learners, but they also wanted Elders watching and using the video to feel at home.

Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga provides a fun, engaging, and culturally relevant form of exercise for people of all ages, but especially for Elders; Elders at Jı̀mı̀ Erasmus Ǫ̀hdaa K’èhodı̀l Kǫ̀ love taking part in Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga. With the creation of these videos, Elders living in Behchokǫ̀, Gamètì, Wekweètì, Whatì, Yellowknife, and beyond will have access to the physical and mental health benefits of Tłı̨chǫ Camp Yoga. So, in addition to preserving, promoting, and revitalizing Tłı̨chǫ language, culture, and traditional knowledge, the videos will play an important role in the health and wellbeing of Elders.