By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

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As 2023 ended with a bang, so did the Ktunaxa language class.

Mara Nelson, Traditional Knowledge and Language Support worker from the Ktunaxa Nation, and Alfred Joseph, a respected Elder, taught the 12-week course that started in September and finished in December.

“We do language classes every Monday . . . it starts to become part of your daily expectation,” Nelson said. 

In the first few weeks, the students introduced themselves and were taught how to present themselves— saying their names, nationality, and where they came from in the Ktunaxa language. 

Ki?su?k kyukyit is “welcome” or “good day” in Ktunaxa. 

Anwunikit is “see you later.”

What’s unique about the language is that it contains no alphabet, only sounds. 

One of the memorable sounds is ‘ta or xa.’ 

Students learned how to pronounce numbers, place names of the towns in ?amakis Ktunaxa, dates/months, emotions, body parts, and so on. 

Every class is unique for each student, especially for the educators teaching the course. 

“This one, in particular, had a lot of significance for me. It was the first session that my mom attended, and my cousin — she’s the reason I started learning language,” Nelson said. 

Nelson added that each session is very memorable. 

“It takes a lot of bravery. That’s not something that’s really easy to come out and do. Some of them took 11 weeks to get there, but they started it, and they did such a great job. Those moments are remarkable to me,” she said. 

Nelson said another language session will be coming in late winter and early spring. The classes might be a level up from the previous ones. She intends to teach sentence structures, verb tenses, and nouns. Nelson also wants to see an in-person session every Monday night instead of Zoom classes.

“That’s what we want in our families: we want our language back and our language to be continued. And it’s started in my home, where I can share it with my mom. It’s not going to go away now – that’s what’s so beautiful about this session, it just brought language back into our homes,” Nelson stated. 

“I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I am given with Alfred and with the participants who spend their time,” she concluded.

In Ktunaxa, there is no word for thank you, the closest they have is ‘Su’kni.’

 For more information about the class, visit