Pique News Magazine, based in Pemberton B.C., recently published a two-part story highlighting the language revitalization work of Lisa Sambo, Director of the N’Quatqua Child and Family Development Centre and a member of the N’Quatqua First Nation. This story is a summary of those articles written by Lisa Richardson.
In June of 2019, Lisa attended HELISET TŦE SḰÁL ‘Let the Languages Live’ – International Conference on Indigenous Languages and Wanosts’a7 Dr. Lorna Williams’ keynote address left a lasting impression on her. Inspired and motivated by her time at the conference she returned home with a new vision on how to incorporate the Ucwalmícwts language into children’s programming at the centre.
Before attending the conference, Language work felt like an overwhelming undertaking, but she returned home with inspiration and some tools to get started. Her first step was to complete a language needs assessment to support program planning. The centre then applied for and received funding for language programming from FPCC through the BCLI program (now called Pathways to Language Vitality Program).
“Indigenous languages, the languages of our land, of each of our lands, are spoken nowhere else on the planet, so when they go, they’re wiped from the land. And we cannot let that happen. Our languages are the voice of our lands. Our languages keep our connections to the ancestors. They’re our connections to the descendants, it’s the legacy, wisdom and knowledge that we leave those who come after us, and we need to keep clear about those responsibilities that we have to our descendants.” – Wanosts’a7 Dr. Lorna Williams from her keynote address at HELISET TŦE SḰÁL.
With small steps Lisa began integrating lessons she learned at the conference to bring language into daily life by learning greetings and using them as often as she could. She used the FPCC online language tool FirstVoices to practice the pronunciation and told herself it is ok to make mistakes as she learned.
“I started doing it outside the office, around N’Quatqua, with people I know. And then at Lil’wat Gas Station, with people I didn’t already know. Then I started doing it in the Pemberton Valley Grocery store with St’át’imcets elders, and then at Stay Wild, with the people there, because I love them. And when I say, Kúkwstum’ckacw, I am thanking them dearly. So then I felt super brave, because I did it at Stay Wild with sort of strangers.” – Lisa Sambo, Pique Magazine.
Lisa’s newfound inspiration that began at HELISET TŦE SḰÁL has resulted in a love of learning and sharing her language. The social distance we all feel during COVID-19 has led her to design t-shirts with positive statements in her language to share with people across St’át’imcets territory. She looked for phrases in the Lil̓wat7úl FirstVoices.com site and settled on Áma s7ats̓xentsína! “It’s good to see you” in Ucwalmícwts. She now spreads her love of her language with this greeting by giving the t-shirts out to people in her community.
To read the full two-part series in Pique magazine online and learn more about Lisa Sambo’s language journey please visit the article links:
Thank you to Pique contributor Lisa Richards for sharing this story with us.
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