Posted on: July 5, 2016

Syilx Language House celebrates completion of year 1

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June 23, 2016 was a proud day for the Syilx Language House, celebrating completion of the first year of the four-yearprogram. The Syilx Language House Association was formed in 2015 with two main goals: to train new Nsyilxcnspeakers and record Elders. They are responding to the urgent needs expressed by Syilx Elders and communitiesto revitalize the language. They gratefully acknowledge financial support from Penticton Indian Band, OsoyoosIndian Band, Westbank First Nation, First Peoples grants, Simon Fraser University and sponsorship from severalemployers for their employees to attend class two days a week.

Students travel from across the Syilx Nation toattend this pilot project in Penticton. Seventeen adult students successfully completed the first year, over 350hours of intensive instruction, following Paul Creek (Salish School of Spokane) curriculum, including Nsyilxcn 1,Captí kʷł 1 and Nsyilxcn 2. Classes started on September 30, 2015. Students will study 2,000 hours over fouryears and emerge mid-intermediate speakers.

The Syilx Language House also holds Elder recording sessions witha number of fluent Elders including Kiʔlawna Andrew McGinnis and K̓ninmtn t̓a nqʷic̓tn Grouse Barnes. Staff hasrecorded and edited numerous Elder recordings which are shared freely as advanced learning material.

At the celebration, students presented five-minute Nsyilxcn narrations to community, family, members of Chiefand Councils from OIB, PIB, and WFN, as well as MP Richard Canning. Students have come a long way in oneyear and were able to describe themselves and described an animal, bird or insect, and its life cycle.

EldersGrouse Barnes and Andrew McGinnis said the students were speaking better and more clearly.

Grouse Barnes(WFN fluent Elder) said of the group, “x̌ast nixəlmn. lut t̓a cʔax ʕapnaʔ. taʔli x̌ʕal. nx̌əscin. mi k̓ʷəck̓ʷctwilx iʔsnəqsilxʷs, iʔ sqilxʷcawtət. It is good to hear you. You are not shy anymore and are very clear. You arestrengthening your families and your sqilxʷ ways. We all have a job to do and we must continue to look sevengenerations ahead.”

After the presentations, Sʔí mlaʔxʷ, the lead teacher, summarized the first year andcollected community feedback. Syilx Leadership and the Minister of Parliament congratulated students andteachers on their achievment and wished for all success. Chief Jonathan Kruger encouraged the group to “keepgoing” and would like to see apps developed and encouraged collaboration between all speakers and learners.

The Syilx Language House shared its plans for the future. When these students graduate in 2020, there will beenough new teachers to expand. The “2020 plan” hopes to encompass many new students from each of PIB,OIB, and WFN and work towards turning off English in some Band workplaces. Qʷayqʷʕayax̌n Levi Bentencouraged fellow students to “niʕí p nqilxʷcnm” always speak the language, whenever they meet over thesummer because, “ixí ʔ mrimstn,” that is medicine.

The class of 2020:

Sʔí mlaʔxʷ Michele Johnson, instructor (OKIB member)
St̓aʔqʷá lqs Hailey Causton, assistant (WFN member)
X̌astí tkʷ Jolene Michel, assistant (PIB member)

C’arí s Jordan Coble, WFN sponsored student
Goya da Yensdih Tiana Louis, volunteer student (Onondaga Nation, married to LSIB)
Haʔmishməsh Morning Dove, OIB sponsored student
Kikstaʔ Catherine Jamieson, volunteer student (Bonaparte member, married to PIB)
Marí (Ramona) Louis, OKIB sponsored student
Pqlqin Maynard Mcrae, Sensisyusten School sponsored student (UNIB member)
Qʷənqʷənxn Charlene Roberds, PIB sponsored student
Qʷayqʷʕayá x̌n Levi Bent, PIB sponsored student (LSIB member, married to PIB)
Sənpaʔqcí n Dawn Machin, volunteer student (OKIB member)
Səxʷt̓ums Krista Lindley, volunteer student (OKIB member)
Skalúla Tyler Ernst SD 53, sponsored student (UNIB member)
Skawí lx Sarah Alexis, ONA employee, volunteer student (OKIB member)
Suxʷkłʔuclm Sonya Jensen, OIB sponsored student
Sq̓ax̌əx̌í naʔk Sheri Stelkia, OIB sponsored student
Xá ʔtma Sqilxʷ Flynn Wetton, volunteer student (WFN member)

Guests at celebration:Chief Jonathan Kruger PIB, Mick Werstuik and Brian Eli WFN Councillors, Sammy Jo Louie OIB Councillor,Richard Canning MP, Joanne Moise Aboriginal Education SD 23, Pamela and Grouse Barnes WFN Elders, Anna MaeTanner, Andrew McGinnis PIB Elder, Liz Bent, students, and others. (Regrets: Chief Clarence Louie OIB).

Sʔímlaʔxw Michele Johnson
Cell: 250 487-8989

Pictured above: Left to right, back row: Qʷayqʷʕayá x̌n, Xáʔtma Sqilxʷ, Suxʷkłʔú clm, Hamishmish, Marí , Sq̓ax̌əx̌í naʔk, Skalú la, Kí kstaʔ, Sʔí mlaʔxʷ (instructor). Front row: Pqlqin, Kiʔlá wna, Sənpaʔqcí n, Səxʷt̓ums, X̌astí tkʷ, and St̓aʔqʷalqs. Missing from picture: C̓arí s, Goya da yeñsdih, Qʷənqʷənxn, and Skawí lx.