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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Na mi k’anatsut ta Sk̲wx̲wu7mesh snichim chet : Squamish language revitalization : from the hearts and the minds of the language speakers Baker-Williams, Kirsten


Skwxwú7mesh snichim, Squamish language was declared the official language of the Skwxwú7mesh-ullh Uxwumixw, the Squamish People, in 1990. As of 2006 , the Squamish language is a critically endangered language with fewer than 12 native speakers. For this thesis, three generations of Squamish language speakers were interviewed. These speakers include fluent language speakers who were raised hearing the Squamish Language as their first language until they were sent away for formal schooling, as well as re-emergent language speakers who were also exposed to the language within the household as a child, but less frequently. The fluent speakers continued to speak the language, while the re-emergent speakers stopped speaking the language for many years. The other co-participants are primarily adult learners of the language who either teach the Squamish language in the public school system or are actively learning the Squamish language through family and adult language evening classes. The historical context and the endeavours of these community members are critical to guiding the Squamish language revitalization efforts. This is what the first part of the thesis addresses. The second part of the thesis states how the Squamish language affects their identity in being Squamish persons. The Squamish language is central to the culture and identity of Squamish people. The importance of learning and speaking Skwxwú7mesh snichim, and the essence of the Squamish language differs for each generation of language speakers and language learners. However, fundamental values to the Skwxwú7rnesh culture and the Skwxwú7mesh language remain the same, and I will argue are fundamental to the core of Squamish people and are at the heart of Squamish language revitalization.

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