Verna Williams

Language: Nisg̱a’a
Verna Williams also goes by the name of Ts'aa Gabin

The name Verna Williams is synonymous with the revitalization of the Nisga'a Language. She has been instrumental and in some cases, one may say, has single-handedly ensured through her hard work and dedication that the Nisga'a Language will "not" be lost.

For the past 35 years she has been directly involved in the following:
• the establishment of the Nisga'a Language program in our schools,
• our locally owned university/college first nation studies program,
• local community language programs—travelling throughout the Nass Valley teaching the language,
• the writing of our language,
• the standardization of the written language,
• the Nisga'a alphabet,
• the designing of the Nisga'a Language Curriculum for all age groups from four year olds to adult learners,
• a pilot project on Nisga'a immersion,
• the transformation of our language from written to digital format,
• the formation of the Nisga'a Language Preservation Society

Verna has been further involved in teaching the culture and traditions of the Nisga'a Nation, which include:
• Our feast system
• Our Nisga'a Laws
• Nisga'a traditional protocol
• Role of chiefs & matriarchs
• Nisga'a traditional foods
• Nisga'a traditional medicines

Throughout her work with the Nisga'a Language, Culture and Traditions, she has taught many students. She has trained many former students to become language champions within their communities so that the teaching of the Nisga'a Language will never be lost.

Truly her most successful students are those who could not speak the language when they began the course and today, many of these students are "fluent" Nisga'a Language speakers and teachers.

In May 2010, Verna was bestowed the greatest honour of her career from the University of Northern B.C. and Wilp Wilxo'oskwl Nisga'a Institute (our local university/college) — a Doctorate Degree, "Professor Emeritus," for her lifetime dedication and service for the Nisga'a Language Program. On June 1, 2010, the community of Gitlaxt'aamiks hosted a recognition dinner in honour of her award.

Verna has tried to retire many times but is continually called upon by various Nisga'a institutions to assist with language programs and initiatives. So, today she continues to carry the torch for the revitalization of the Nisga'a Language with no end in sight for her to retire.

In February, 2011, as the Nisga'a Nation began the preparation of the opening of the Museum, located in Laxgalts'ap, Verna was once again called upon by Nisga'a Lisims Government to assist with the writing and translation of the Nisga'a Artifacts returned to the Nisga'a Nation for display in our museum.

One of Verna's greatest concerns as she has tried to prepare for retirement was the preservation of the Nisga'a Language. To move this initiative forward, she began talking to elders and fluent Nisga'a Language speakers. In March 2011, she assisted with the formation of a Nisga'a Language Preservation Society and on June 8, 2011 they had their inaugural meeting for the preservation of the Nisga'a Language.

The Gitlaxt'aamiks Village Government, the community of Gitlaxt'aamiks and the Nisga'a Nation are very proud to submit Verna Williams’ name as our nomination for Language Champion.

Nominator: Darlene Morgan