Hanna Bryant: The Significance of Culture and Language


In this video, 17-year-old Hanna Bryant tells her story of moving to a new community at the age of eleven. Reflecting on this difficult transition, Hanna discovers that the connection to her traditional language and culture significantly helped define who she is and facilitated a sense of belonging.

Hanna’s experience strongly connects with the ingredients that support resiliency in children and youth, particularly when resilience[1] is viewed through a cultural framework. Monique Gray-Smith is a mixed-heritage woman of Cree, Lakota and Scottish ancestry. Monique is a consultant, author and international speaker on the subject of resilience. Monique suggests that the strategies to foster resilience in Indigenous children include developing a sense of self, a sense of family, a sense of community and a sense of culture, language and land. It is this fourth element that she describes as “the one that enwraps all elements of the child” that Hanna experienced both through loss and a powerful reconnection.

Professional Development:

Share this video with colleagues to spark an exploration of how teachers and mentors educate the mind and touch the heart of their students.

  1. What resonated for you in Hanna’s story?

  2. What is your culture?

  3. What cultures are represented in your classroom?

  4. How does your culture and language open doors to relationship building with students?

  5. What were some of the strategies Hanna talked about that her ‘teachers’ used that you could either strengthen or begin to weave into your practice?

  6. In what ways is Hanna resilient?

  7. How do you foster resilience with your students?

Classroom Application:

Use the video and questions below as a starting point to engage students in reflection and dialogue.

1. Hook Activity:  Think-Pair-Share

How do you feel when you belong? (Prompt: Imagine a family, group of friends, or team - how do you think, act, feel, talk, behave?)

Show the video and discuss Hanna’s challenges in making the transition to a new school and community. Uncover the key ideas of change, self/cultural awareness and developing resilience.

  • Initial thoughts and feelings to Hanna’s story?
  • How do you think she might have felt during her move from Haida Gwaii to Prince Rupert?
  • In what ways is Hanna resilient?
  • In what ways are her culture and language resilient?

2. Exploring Key Ideas

  • Share a time when you thought change was going to be difficult but it turned out to be a positive experience. Name the elements of the situation that you think made a positive difference.

  • On four pieces of paper, write or visually define your sense of self, sense of family, sense of community and sense of culture, language and land.

  • Consider potential challenges to becoming resilient. From the following list, choose one. Describe how it could challenge resilience and propose action ideas to address within a school setting.

    • History of Residential Schools and resulting inter-generational trauma
    • Family Violence
    • Isolation
    • Everyday Stress
    • Lack of access to traditional/cultural foods and activities
    • Poverty
    • Racism
  • At the end of the video, Hanna shared about her teachers also being mentors and we saw her emotionally moved by the impact they’ve had on her life. Who have been the people in your life who have helped you? What qualities make a positive mentor?

3.  Extending and Connecting Key Ideas

  • What attitudes, strategies or behaviours help with transitions in school? In life?

  • What are ways to connect with other students who are new or different than you?

  • We heard Hanna talk about how important her culture and language are in her strength? What helps you be strong?

Researchers call the ability to handle challenging situations in a way that promotes well-being "resilience."  

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.