Eddy Shorty’s life long language journey

“I love it,” says Eddy about learning Northern Tutchone.

By Dylan MacNeil

KDFN Citizen Eddy Shorty recently started learning Northern Tutchone.

This fall, 64-year-old KDFN Citizen Eddy Shorty started Northern Tutchone lessons through the Yukon Native Language Centre. For Eddy, this has been a life long goal.

“It’s my parent’s language. All my sisters and everybody older than me learned it when they were kids,” says Eddy.

When Eddy got sent to residential school, he lost his connection to Northern Tutchone. He never learned the language. As time went on, life got in the way.

“All my life I wanted to learn but there’s been no time, you’ve got to work and stuff,” says Eddy.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Eddy had time to reflect.

“I figured this would be a good time to learn. I went over to the House of Learning to see if they could help me and sure enough, they helped me,” he says.

KDFN’s Post-Secondary Coordinator helped connect Eddy with the Yukon Native Language Centre. Eddy previously took a one-year Southern Tutchone class. He says a lot of the words are similar to Northern Tutchone.

“It’s not that hard to learn if you’re interested in it,” says Eddy.

With his education in Southern Tutchone and now Northern Tutchone, Eddy is using Indigenous languages more and more in his daily life. He’s now able to pick up some words he hears on CHONfm when they play old recordings of Elders.

“That makes you feel really good. Before, you just hear it and you don’t know what they’re saying,” says Eddy.

Eddy feels the times are changing. With more resources available, it is now easier to learn Indigenous languages. He is hopeful for the future.

“Back in the day you just learned from your Elders. Now a days, it’s in schools and everywhere. I think that’s really good,” says Eddy. “There’s lots of learning from books and stuff because there’s less speakers.”

He hopes that the number of language speakers goes up. He would like to be a fluent speaker one day and pass the language on to his grandchildren.

“When you get to this age, you need to teach what you know,” he says. “I love it.”