NIȽ TU,O is proud to announce the development of two major SENĆOŦEN language initiatives created to support youth in learning and speaking SENĆOŦEN; the bedrock of W̱SÁNEĆ Culture.
In partnership with the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board, NIȽ TU,O is delighted to announce the development of two major language revitalization initiatives; The W̱SÁNEĆ values project and the development of sencoten.org; a dedicated resource for all things SENĆOŦEN. Both projects will be instrumental in supporting language carriers, and language students, as well as supporting the preservation of language and culture.
Currently, there are only 7 fluent SENĆOŦEN speakers and 103 semi-speakers. Therefore, it is essential to the language’s survival that it is passed on to new generations. These new projects will support the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board’s adult learning childhood learning and SENĆOŦEN immersion programs as well as the general community, by making language learning and W̱SÁNEĆ worldview resources more easily accessible.
The W̱SÁNEĆ values project:
This community drive initiative supported by NIȽ TU,O intends to capture and promote the W̱SÁNEĆ worldview by sharing stories in SENĆOŦEN that teach the Natural Laws. This project will involve the creation of resource kits that contain a compilation of Creation stories (already created and ones in the works) that highlights W̱SÁNEĆ values. In addition to the books, beautifully illustrated posters will also be created to to promote the W̱SÁNEĆ values.
SILE ȽḴÁLJ: Grandmother moon.
Shown above: A sneak preview of some of the artwork created by one of the SȾÁSEN junior apprentices LIQIŦIÁ Elliott, 14, of the BOḰEĆEN/W̱JOȽEȽP village that could potentially be used on posters aimed to promote the 13 W̱SÁNEĆ Values. The posters and books will be ready in Spring 2023.
The 13 values books will contain W̱SÁNEĆ origin stories passed down from elders and also some fictional stories created by youth from their perspective. Eleven people are involved in the development of this project, including the SȾÁSEN language department, SȾÁSEN Elders, KÁNTENOT (Helen Jack), and SȾÁSEN junior apprentices. This project began in spring, and will continue to work through the rest of the year.
“We’re hoping that we can provide these teachings to help support teachers and educators by providing a collection of stories to coincide with each value,” says SX̱EDŦELISIYE (Renée Sampson), the SENĆOŦEN program facilitator at the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board. SX̱EDŦELISIYE has already been involved in many SENĆOŦEN related projects, including a Youtube channel with over 200+ videos instructing people on how to speak the SENĆOŦEN. This project is a continuation of SX̱EDŦELISIYE’s passion to carry out the dream of the elders. She explains, “It is the ĆELÁṈEN our birthright, our SENĆOŦEN language. We must pass it on to our children in our communities in our schools, they must be exposed to our W̱SÁNEĆ worldviews by W̱SÁNEĆ teachers, so the students learn from our worldview.”
SX̱EDŦELISIYE especially hopes that this work can be a resource for students in immersion programs, in which students primarily speak and read in SENĆOŦEN from as young as three years old. This is where this project could have the most impact, because while there are many storytelling resources in English, there aren’t many in SENĆOŦEN.
STOLȻEȽOT -Addie Elliott, working on JENNI story
Currently, PIȾELÁNEW̱OT (Samantha Etzel) and KÁNTENOT (Helen Jack) are working on SḴIMEQ the story of the octopus. This story is about a man who forgot his teachings of “being kind and being happy – he wasn’t appreciative of his own two hands” and wished he had more to get his work done quicker thus gets turned into an octopus. Another example is the story of how the Steller’s Jay came to be, which focuses on the value of being hardworking. It tells the story of a woman called ĆIYE who picked blueberries, till her hands turned blue.
In a version of the story told by J,SIṈTEN “The Creator then appeared as a human. He said to her, “Hard work is good. Ambition is good. Gratitude is good. Thinking of your future is good. I want you to be remembered, so I will make you the colour of your hands.” Then The Creator turned ĆIYE into a Steller’s Jay. To this day she still says her name “ĆIYE! ĆIYE!”
In addition to the value of being hard working, the 13 values of W̱SÁNEĆ people also include: ÁTOL (Respect), QENÁȽ (Responsibility), ŦE,ITḴEN (Honesty), and W̱UIȻEN (Kindness).
SX̱EDŦELISIYE shares, “Our elders say the number one law is kindness. It’s how we carry ourselves as W̱SÁNEĆ people. In our WSÁNEĆ worldview, we get up early and respect the gift of light, we must be appreciative of the new day.”
In addition to the 13 Values project, NIȽ TU,O is also funding the development of the website sencoten.org. The website will provide information for anyone looking to learn or teach SENĆOŦEN. Since spring, NIȽ TU,O has supported junior apprentices Addie Elliott artist and TOLISIYE Elliott who is collecting and organizing the vast amount of material and populating the website with information.
TOLISIYE Elliott, working on sencoten.org data entry
Shown above, is a sneak preview of SENĆOŦEN.org. The website will be an incredible go-to resource of Origin Stories, Written, Audio and Printable resources categorized into easy & intuitive language domain categories like School, Home, Work, Outdoor, Questions, Conversation, Culture and songs.
The website will offer a huge repository of teaching material such as downloadable SENĆOŦEN posters, audio and video clips as well as written, visual, and downloadable cheat sheets and other useful resources. The site will be a source for accessing the 13 W̱SÁNEĆ values when completed. The site will be publicly available and will contain translations from English to SENĆOŦEN and from SENĆOŦEN to English, with a special focus on pronunciation and speaking guide. Additionally, new SENĆOŦEN words, developed by the SȾÁSEN language department, and SȾÁSEN Elders are added from their lexicon sessions.
As well as providing an incredible resource for those seeking to learn or improve their SENĆOŦEN, another benefit of the website is to alleviate the pressure on language-carriers and knowledge holders like SX̱EDŦELISIYE stated “Our SELW̱ÁN are looked to constantly for help, advice for language which they love to by the way but we’re hoping that SENĆOŦEN.org will both help relieve pressure on our already busy Elders as well as help the community feel more able to navigate learning a little bit easier”. Once the website launches this fall, it will enable language carriers to redirect people with simple questions to the site. That way, anyone with an interest in learning SENĆOŦEN will be able to go to one easily accessible place to find basic information.
The idea of SENCOTEN.org has been in Renée’s mind for about two years, but she wasn’t able to act on it due to a lack of funding. She was first inspired to create this project by the Lushootseed people who have an incredibly detailed website dedicated to teach “The Language of Puget Sound” to many different groups, from elementary school students to university students.
Beyond acting as a resource for community and alleviating the pressure on language carriers, SENĆOŦEN.org and W̱SÁNEĆ values project both fulfill a larger purpose, one that’s shared by both NIȽ TU,O and the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board; to connect the younger generations with their ancestors, and ultimately preserve a critical piece of the language, culture values and worldview.
Through the execution of both these language revitalization projects SX̱EDŦELISIYE’s goal – to ensure that teachers and youth have readily available, accessible and easy-to-use tools to learn the language, culture, worldview, and natural laws of W̱SÁNEĆ people – will be furthered.
“Capturing origin stories and the lessons taught in them go a long way to recovering a language that has almost been lost.” shares Leslie-Ann Paige, Coast Salish Initiatives for NIȽ TU,O, “We are so thrilled to be a part of a project that will empower Coast Salish youth to learn the language and worldview of the ancestors if not before, then at least in addition to English.”
Continues Leslie-Ann “Ensuring youth have a connection to language, culture and W̱SÁNEĆ worldview is one of the ways we can help strengthen our children and families and reduce the ongoing systemic barriers to raising happy healthy families and children in our communities”
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