Xaat Kl

The Haida Language


This website is dedicated to the study, preservation and revitalization of the Haida language.


What is Haida?

Haida, or Xaat Kl, is the ancestral language of the Haida people.  The traditional home of the Haidas is Haida Gwaii (also known as Queen Charlotte Island) off the west coast of what is now British Columbia, Canada.  A few hundred years ago, some Haidas moved north to what is now Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska.  Today, the four main Haida villages are Masset and Skidegate, both on Haida Gwaii, and Hydaburg and Kasaan, on Prince of Wales.  There are also quite a few Haidas living in larger towns and cities up and down the Pacific Coast, from Juneau to Ketchikan to Vancouver to Seattle to San Francisco.

How many people speak Haida?

Unfortunately, Haida is a highly endangered language.  While a hundred years ago all Haidas were fluent in the Haida language, today the number of speakers is down to no more than 3 or 4 dozen, and nearly all of those speakers are over the age of 70.  However, there is a strong interest among many younger Haidas to learn their ancestral language and to use it once again on a daily basis in their communities.

Do all Haidas speak the same dialect?

While nearly everyone agrees that there is only a single Haida language, there are some noticeable dialectal differences between communities.  In modern times, the greatest difference is between Southern Haida, as spoken in Skidegate, and Northern Haida, spoken in Masset and Hydaburg.  Speakers of one dialect will often have some trouble understanding the other dialect at first, until they have had time to adjust to it.
There are also more subtle differences between the dialects found in Hydaburg and Masset, as well as, for instance, between Hydaburg and Kasan (another small community on Prince of Wales Island).  For the most part, the differences between the dialects are largely a matter of pronunciation and, to some extent, vocabulary.  Most of the grammatical rules of the language are relatively constant across all the dialects.

What is Haida like?

Here is a very simple, short story in Haida, originally composed by Erma Lawrence in 1974.

How is Haida written?

Currently, Haida is written using two similar, yet quite distinct, writing systems.  Details can be found here.

What does Haida sound like?

Listen to the sounds of Haida.

How can I start learning Haida?

Here are some basic phrases you can use to start learning Haida.  And when you've seen those, here are some more basic phrases to keep you going.  And then, when you're ready, here's a whole phrasebook to work through.  Also be sure to check out our online Haida lessons

Where can I learn to speak Haida?

There are a range of Haida classes, both formal and informal, being offered in several Haida communities.
The University of Alaska Southeast also offers Haida classes in Ketchikan and Hydaburg and Juneau.

Interested in other Southeast Alaska Native languages?

Please visit our sister sites: www.tlingitlanguage.org and www.tsimshianlanguage.org

Still have more questions?

Email us, or join our Haida language discussion list and pose your question to our list members.

Last updated:    (2012-04-13), Jordan Lachler