This article attempts to provide a brief insight of First Nations culture and language, particularly the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Fist Nations. As someone who isn’t First Nations, I acknowledge I’m not able to provide the same amount of insight, perspective or knowledge as a First Nations person would about this topic.
First Nations people have resided in present day “British Columbia” or “Canada” long before colonization or the confederation of “Canada”. Traditional territories of multiple First Nations groups, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations, have resided in present day “Vancouver” and “Southwestern British Columbia” for millennia. Traditional Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh culture include the usage of sacred Longhouses, traditional artwork like Masks, and traditional sports like canoeing. Traditional First Nations cultural practices all are engraved in the Skwxwu7mesh snichm (Squamish) language and all other First Nations languages.
Decades ago, the negative impacts of colonization, including impacts of residential schools by religious affiliations, introduction of foreign European diseases, and systemic racist laws such as banning of ritual practices like the Potlatch all were assimilation attempts by the Canadian Government to wipe out First Nations languages and First Nations cultural practices across “Canada”. Colonization resulted in atrocities for numerous First Nations groups and peoples’ across Canada. This assimilation attempt perpetrated by the Canadian Government historically has negatively impacted many First Nations groups across multiple generations, including up to the present day.
Reconciliation is a process many people haven’t come to terms with. Reconciliation with First Nations people is a continuous, constant process that can’t be pardoned by a simple forgiveness by the Canadian government. Language revival is one part of this continuous reconciliation process for First Nations people. As KWI AWT STWLMEXW notes, immersion programs like the new two-year Squamish Language Program at SFU are helping to bring back endangered languages like Squamish that only have around ten fluent speakers left.
The introduction of the SFU Squamish Language program is able to have 15 students enrolled in the program each year. The 1000 classroom hours of immersion instruction for these students will help build more immersion programs for the Squamish language and ensure more people speaking it moving forward.
Those interested in the program can learn more about the program in the following link: https://www.kwiawtstelmexw.com/education/old-sfu-immersion-program/