Sonic Journey One: Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa

August 30, 2023 Nia Tero Season 3 Episode 8
Sonic Journey One: Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa
Show Notes Transcript

“I’ll always remember my grandfather’s stories... about what it means to be a Gwich'in person. We want our children to live like our Ancestors.” - Alisha Carlson, translation from Gwich’in 

We hope you’re ready for something different. In this episode of Seedcast, we’re going on a Sonic Journey, immersing ourselves in the words and sounds from a story told entirely in the Gwich’in language. “Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa (We Will Walk the Trail of Our Ancestors)” is a short film created by friends Princess Daazhraii Johnson and Alisha Carlson, who are working to revitalize the Gwich’in language and keep the lessons of their elders and ancestors alive in the Boreal. In this episode, hear the sounds of snowshoes crunching on ice, crackling fires, and lessons passed down from Alisha’s grandfather to her and her children. 

We send much gratitude to both Princess and Alisha for sharing their beautiful film. We also extend thanks to Alisha’s grandfather, Chief Reverend Trimble Gilbert, and the other community members whose voices we hear in this episode. Thanks also to our sibling initiative, the Emmy-winning Reciprocity Project, which is a partnership between Nia Tero and Upstander Project, in association with REI Co-op Studios.

And if you enjoy this episode, listen to our next Sonic Journey episode here.

Host: Jessica Ramirez. Producer and Editor: Stina Hamlin. Story Editor: Jenny Asarnow. Audio Mix: Ha’aheo Auwae-Dekker. 


Seedcast is a production of Nia Tero, a global nonprofit which supports Indigenous land guardianship around the world through policy, partnership, and storytelling initiatives.

Enjoy the Seedcast podcast on the Nia Tero website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast platforms.

Keep up with Seedcast on Instagram and use the hashtag #Seedcast.

Sonic Journey One: Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa

Seedcast Season 3 Episode 8

August 30, 2023 

[ethereal ambient music plays, and we hear the slow rhythmic sound of a rattle]

[00:00:00] Alisha Carlson: [speaking in Gwich’in]

I’ll always remember my grandfather’s stories... about what it means to be a Gwich'in person. We want our children to live like our Ancestors.

[00:00:41] Jessica Ramirez: Welcome to a special edition of Seedcast, Sonic Journeys

[melodic vocal music with drumming plays, and then fades to play in the background]

[00:01:08] Jessica: I’m Jessica Ramirez. We encourage you to let your imagination run free as we take you inside the soundscapes of the Reciprocity Project. It's a series of short films that highlight the Indigenous value of reciprocity, and it's a part of our storytelling family here at Nia Tero. You're in for some beautiful deep listening, and then you'll hear from the filmmakers later in this episode.

 Our first journey takes us north—way north—where you can see your breath in the air most of the year, beyond the borders where Alaska meets Canada, in an area known as the Boreal. We'll listen to a film called Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa, or in English, We Will Walk the Trail of Our Ancestors. It was created by two friends, director Princess Daazhraii Johnson and collaborator Alisha Carlson. 

The only language you’ll hear is Gwich'in. Gwich'in is a severely endangered language, and thankfully, it is being revitalized by Princess, Alisha, and so many others in their community. So I invite you to bathe in the sounds of the story: a warm fire, and the footsteps of snowshoes, as Alisha's grandfather teaches her how reciprocity is embedded in all aspects of life.

 The northern lights warm the caribou. The caribou help feed and sustain the community. The community honors the connections. And in turn, these connections bring new meaning to Alisha and her wishes for her children and for all living beings. So I invite you to close your eyes, open your mind, and just listen.

[Audio plays from the film Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa (2022)]

[ethereal ambient music plays, and we hear a slow rhythmic rattling sound]

[00:03:04] Alisha: [speaking in Gwich’in]

 I’ll always remember my grandfather’s stories... about what it means to be a Gwich'in person.

[ethereal music and rattle sounds continue, and we hear the sounds of a crackling fire]

[someone is singing, and there’s a rhythmic pounding, then someone else shouts out] 

[the ethereal tones fade back in]

[00:04:01] Alisha: [speaking in Gwich’in] We want our children to live like our Ancestors.

[we hear the sound of a knife being sharpened on stone] 

[00:04:15] Man Sharpening Knife: [speaking in Gwich'in] You don’t sharpen your knife till after you get your animal. Otherwise you give yourself bad luck.  

[sounds of knife sharpening continues, then sounds of cutting] 

[slow melodic music plays while people are talking and laughing conversationally] 

[00:04:43] Alisha: [speaking in Gwich’in] We eat the caribou and we also know them. And the caribou know us humans, too. We really have knowledge of them. And so we live off of them. 

[we hear the sounds of the kitchen—the food simmering and cooking, pots and pans on the stove, and people talking to each other] 

We also dream of the caribou.  

[sound of an exterior door opening] 

[slow, melodic, ambient music continues] 

[00:05:15] Grandmother: [speaking in Gwich’in] Hello grandchild, what are you up to? Oh meat. How nice, thank you so much! You also brought blueberries!  

[ethereal slow music continues in the background]

[00:05:41] Chief Reverend Trimble Gilbert: [speaking in Gwich’in] Unto this day, we are still taking care of each other and we plan for the future by ensuring the young people now understand this sharing culture. And it is for this purpose that I talk to you now. What we are doing now…People who are growing up now have never heard this.  

[the sound of voices, rattling, and drumming plays in the background] 

[continues speaking in Gwich’in] And if you learn well then you will teach the children. 

[melodic vocal music with drumming plays, we hear the rattling sound along with the music, the music fades and ends]

[Audio from film ends] 

[00:07:44] Jessica: I have seen this film many times, but this experience was a whole new way to enjoy it and understand it. It's really a unique gift to take in the story this way. Alisha and her grandfather and family worked to archive the sounds of the Gwich'in language in collaboration with Princess, the film's director. This is Princess speaking about the making of the film. 

[00:08:09] Princess Daazhraii Johnson: I went to my mother and I just asked her, “What do you think would be a good title for this?” And my mom, she said, “Oh, Diiyeghan naii Taii Tr’eedaa, We Will Walk the Trail of Our Ancestors; because you see Alisha, and she's carrying baby Gracie with the baby belt.” 

[melodic vocal music plays] 

That's that next generation that will carry on our Gwich’in tradition, our Gwich’in ways. And here, our ancestors broke trail for us. They made our way a little easier in our lifetime. It's like, when my mom said that, I was like, that is perfect.  

[00:08:55] Jessica: Here is Alisha sharing her thoughts.  

[melodic vocal music plays quietly in the background] 

[00:08:58] Alisha: Our language, it's embedded to how we survived long ago. And my daughter is learning through this school—through Gwich'in language, not through English. I'm trying to catch up with her! [laughs] That inspires me to keep learning, and keep trying to use the language with her. We use our language to uplift each other, and use laughter as medicine. Someday, I just truly hope that we could all communicate using the language, because it's had so much more meaning. I just want people to feel the love that we have with our culture, and with our caribou, and people. 

[melodic vocal music with drumming plays] 

[00:10:01] Jessica: This film was directed in community by Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Director of Photography, Maya Salganek. Edited by James C. Johnson III and Beyza Boyacioglu. Reciprocity theme song and film music composition by Jennifer Kreisberg. Additional music, GASLIT by Lightning Bug. You can hear more from Alisha and Princess in the Seedcast archive. Check out our episode called Princess Daazhraii Johnson and the Generation Reclaiming Gwich'in

[Seedcast theme music begins and plays in the background]

Thank you to Upstander Project and REI Co-op Studios who partnered with Nia Tero to create all the films in the Reciprocity Project. Watch this film and more at To learn more about Nia Tero, visit us at And please check out Seedcast on Instagram at @niatero_seedcast. 

This episode was produced and edited by Stina Hamlin. The story editor is Jenny Asarnow. Audio mix by Ha’aheo Auwae-Dekker. The executive producer of Seedcast is Tracy Rector. The senior producer is Jenny Asarnow. Seedcast producers are Julie Keck, Stina Hamlin, and me, Jessica Ramirez; with additional support from Ha’aheo Awe Decker. Nia Tero social media by Nancy Kelsey. Transcripts by Sharon Arnold. Seedcast graphics by Cindy Chischilly. Seedcast theme song is Rooted, by Mia Kami. 

I'm your host, Jessica Ramirez, and we look forward to sharing more stories with you all very soon.  

Theme song “Rooted” by Mia Kami: Like the wind we still move, like the waves we rise high, like the sun we never die. No staying quiet, we stand united, we are rooted to the ground, can’t tear us down. We’re here to stay…