Language of the Day: Squamish

Aquamish Image Let’s take a journey…

Mount Garibaldi makes its presence known in the distance as it rises off to touch the clouds and the 335 meter tall Shannon Falls crash into rocks and deep blue waters as its waters makes their decent. If you made your way to the summit of the Stawamus Chief you would see the whole Squamish community below. It is in this picturesque area of British Colombia that we find the speakers of the Squamish language.

The Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) people are an indigenous group that traditionally resided within many areas of British Colombia. Like many groups, their language, traditions and customs have been passed down orally over the years as no formal writing system was established for much of their history. It is this reliance on their language that has led to the recent support on trying to rebuild the language from its nearly extinct standing.

The Squamish people have a rich culture which based on the natural landscape by which they are surrounded. This is demonstrated by their complex set of affinities that connect their social life and cultural events to different families and neighboring nations.

Storytelling is an integral aspect of their history and in 1965 their version of the origin of the world was recorded, “In the beginning water was everywhere and then the tops of the mountains came out of the sea and land was formed. The first man to appear was named X̱i7lánexw. He was given a wife, an ax-like tool, and a salmon trap. X̱i7lánexw and his wife populated the land and the Squamish descend from these ancestors.”

While this language has been on the decline since the European colonization there has been a recent push in order to save the language and the culture of the Squamish people. You can read more about the initiative to save the language here: https://www.kwiawtstelmexw.com/news/new-initiative-launched-to-save-squamish-language/

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