Haida artist and craftsman Jaalen Edenshaw, with the help of Geoffrey Horner, has created a set of 36 emojis that reflect old Haida stories, Haida expressions, and existing emojis with Haida-style art. (Photo courtesy of Jaalen Edenshaw)

B.C. artist creates special Haida emojis in new phone app

Jaalen Edenshaw says it is one small step to keeping culture and language alive on Haida Gwaii

Those who prefer to communicate by text will now be able to express their emotions in Haida, following the integration of Haida art with regular day-to-day communications.

Haida artist and craftsman Jaalen Edenshaw, with the help of Geoffrey Horner, has created a set of 36 emojis that reflect the Haida culture.

Edenshaw said he was inspired by watching his kids use emoji apps and text back and forth.

“There’s just so much digital culture that is around us all the time and doesn’t really reflect our expressions of communicating,” he said.

A third of the emoji set resembles existing emojis (happy, sad, crying faces) but designed in a traditional Haida artistic style. Nine feature Haida language expressions like K’w! (expression of displeasure), Waahaa, Sah, Juup, and ii!. The remaining emojis represent inspirations from old stories that are still referenced in the culture.

“Hat’an inaas gya stla k’aalaangangs uu iijang, Gaagananuu asaasii sGa Gaadee tla gyaandangs! This is typing for young people, to use on the internet!,” reads the app’s description available on the Apple store.

UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, last censused in 2006, classifies the Haida language, Xaaydaa Kil, (which UNESCO refers to as Southern Haida) as critically endangered.

READ MORE: Tahayghen, Sk’aadgaa Naay host ceremonies to mark new Haida language curriculum.

Edenshaw sees his contribution as one more step in helping the language survive.

“It’s a small effort to keep our cultural stories and language and art used in the regular day-to-day on Haida Gwaii alive. I think it is a fun way to get people interested in our stories and the Haida language,” he said.

Edenshaw’s efforts have been well received since the app launched in late-December. As of Jan. 6, more than 1,000 people downloaded the app, the equivalent of 21 per cent of the island’s population.

Jaalen Edenshaw is a Haida artist most known for his monumental sculpture in red cedar. His major works include the Cormorant Pole, the Jasper Pole and the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole. (photo courtesy of Jaaleen Edenshaw)

Edenshaw also acknowledged the work of Horner, who helped him vectorize his hand drawings so they could be digitized into an app. The whole process took several months of on-and-off work.

The app is called Haida Emoji and so far is only available for iPhone, though Edenshaw said he is working to get it on Android as well.

Edenshaw said he will also be working on a second set of emojis and is hoping to collaborate with another artist, whose identity he is keeping confidential for the time being.

In the meantime, the renowned artist is working on a 33-foot long dugout canoe for the island.

Users can search for Haida Emoji on the Apple store to download it and they are g2g!

READ MORE: Endenshaw brothers unveil replica of Great Box


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
email
Like the Haida Gwaii Observer on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Severe storm warning remains in effect for the Kootenays

Two special weather statements have been issued for the West Kootenay

Update: Suspect in Montrose gas station stabbing new to the area

Police say the 30-year-old suspect stabbed a Montrose gas station employee

Trail family rallies for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert.”

Powerful thunderstorms called for the West Kootenay this weekend

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

RDKB launches survey to address housing needs in the district

Communities in the district include Trail, Grand Forks, Rossland and Fruitvale

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Most Read