On November 17, 2023, pentl’ach was officially announced as a living language in B.C.
After more than six years of planning and work, Qualicum First Nation Chief Michael Recalma and his language committee recently joined FPCC staff, Board and Advisory members at FPCC’s Annual General Meeting to celebrate the announcement of the pentl’ach language reawakening (pronounced punt-lutch).
Since the 1940s, when the last known speaker passed away, pentl’ach was listed as a “sleeping” language, a language with no active speakers. The community never accepted the language was gone, maintaining bits of knowledge and words that connected them to their ancestors. It was the vision of Chief Recalma who in 2017 initiated a focused effort to reawaken pentl’ach that put the language on the path to full reawakening.
“The pentl’ach language is a vital part of the Qualicum First Nation’s culture and us as people,” says Chief Recalma. “Language reflects who we are and where we come from.”
The Qualicum First Nation language team did archival research, engaged with the community, and created partnerships with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, the University of Victoria and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. The language team also established a writing system for pentl’ach, which is important for transferring language knowledge.
The pentl’ach language is part of the Salishan language family, originating in the territory of the Qualicum First Nation between Comox and Nanaimo, B.C. In May 2023, the FPCC Board of Directors approved pentl’ach to be added to the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture regulations as the 35th First Nations language in B.C. The Government of British Columbia made the regulation amendment official on November 2, 2023.
According to FPCC’s Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2022, there are currently at least two semi-speakers and 20 learners of pentl’ach.
“We are working to fully awaken the language,” added Chief Recalma. “Our vision is that next generations of pentl’ach descendants will understand the importance of being who we are on the lands of which we are from.”
With grant funding from FPCC’s Language Revitalization Planning Program the pentl’ach language team developed a multi-year language plan that established the current state of the language, engaged with the community and created an inventory of materials for future reference.
“The reawakening of pentl’ach is a testament to the power of community and language professionals working together, sharing knowledge and sharing passion. This is cultural resilience and revitalization in action. The Qualicum Nation Language team has set a wonderful example for others to follow,” says Tracey Herbert, CEO of FPCC.
The pentl’ach language project has been funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation.
Click here to read FPCC’s news release on this announcement.
Click here to learn more about pentl’ach, including phrases, alphabet and other resources.
Explore more stories about language projects and other program areas here.
To learn more about Qualicum First Nation, click here.
To find more information about our Language Revitalization Planning Program and other language programs click here.
FPCC is currently seeking Expressions of Interest for 2024-25 language funding.
To explore the First Peoples’ Map, click here.
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