Updated: Mar 18, 2022
This article is by Adisan, an ITMP student who is joining the team to raise awareness of Indigenous languages and lead language revitalization efforts with Shay (ITMP Vice-Chief, Cultural Outreach and Advocacy). Adisan has exciting plans for engaging with language via social media in the future, as well as more blog posts related to language, so stay tuned! But for now, enjoy her first post on language.
What is a Language?
According to the dictionary, it is the principle method of communication. A language consists of words that can be strung together to form sentences, signs, or writing. Although this is true, a language is more than that. A language is used to share someones’ culture and experiences with another person. That is why I am making this post. To tell you about mine. (This is going to be a part of many posts.)
In early Canada, there were about 59 languages that Indigenous Peoples used. 60% were used in British Columbia. Now, there are only about a third of the languages that are still spoken today, and nearly no one speaks them fluently.
Now, I’m not going to talk about all of the languages in Canada since I don’t know as much about them and I want to make sure I have the facts right. Instead, I will be talking about the ones I know. I live in B.C. so that is where I’m going to start.
The one that is most known around here is the Halq’eméylem language. It’s part of the Salishan language family. It’s spoken along the Fraser River and follows down towards 5 Mile Creek, also above Yale. It is also spoken on Vancouver Island and mainly places up river. One thing I found interesting was depending on where you are, there are different dialects. There are about as many as 17 dialects, and they are spoken in places like Sumas, Matsqui, and Chilliwack. The dialects fall into three major groups: upriver, downriver, and island.
You’re probably wondering why I wrote this, and I’ll tell you why. Remember when I was talking about how these languages are getting lost? Well I want to keep them alive. This is not only my culture; it is a lot of others’ as well. I remember in school when I started learning French, I always wondered why I wasn’t learning any Indigenous languages since that was my culture. It totally had nothing to do with me being bored with French. Once I got older, I realized that it was because our language was dying and not many speak it. That’s when it hit me: that younger children won’t learn about who they are if we don’t teach them. That’s why this topic is important to me and many others. Our culture originated from these languages, and we shared it with other people. I believe that schools should at least try and teach these languages to kids because some kids like me want to learn about who they are and where they came from. I don’t even know much about mine and it’s hard to find someone who can teach me.
Well, that is pretty much all I have to say. Since I’m new to this whole blogging thing, this could look like an essay but please forgive me, it was my first time!
Something I want to start doing is give you some advice like a quote or a fact after my blogs. Although they might not be helpful and seem kind of silly, I want to leave you guys inspired (well, try to at least).
“One language opens a corridor for life, Two languages open every door along the way” -Frank Smith
Author: Adisan, ITMP Councilor, Cultural Outreach and Advocacy
Photo credits: Digital Sq'éwlets Project (digitalsqewlets.ca/stames/maps-cartes-eng.php)