As a Coast Salish-led organization, NIȽ TU,O’s programs and people are supported by several cultural workers to help ensure the work is being done in a good way.
(Shown above, NIȽ TU,O’s recent celebration of permanency where NIȽ TU,O’s cultural workers provided cultural and spiritual support)
From supporting staff to providing leadership in language, cultural protocol, and Coast Salish worldview, the cultural workers at NIȽ TU,O provide a solid foundation and support structure for both the staff and the families getting support at NIȽ TU,O.
This is the first article in a series of three, profiling NIȽ TU,O ‘s in-house knowledge keepers and Elders.
TELTÁLEMOT grew up speaking Hul’q’umi’num’, of which SENĆOŦEN (spoken by Coast Salish of the W̱SÁNEĆ Territory) is a dialect.
The daughter of Ivan and Madeline Morris, who were fluent in Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num’ respectively, TELTÁLEMOT’s parents were very active culturally, TELTÁLEMOT fondly remembers being told to “go sit at the top” of the risers at the numerous cultural events she attended with her family as a young girl. By sitting up top and watching and listening, TELTÁLEMOT learned the basics of Coast Salish cultural protocol, language songs, and dances.
At 19, TELTÁLEMOT went to school to get her two-year SENĆOŦEN teacher training certification. TELTÁLEMOT remembers that time with a smile. Taught by Earl Claxton Sr. and her late father Ivan Morris, TELTÁLEMOT had the honor of being surrounded by Elders fluent in SENĆOŦEN. The Elders told her “We are giving this to you so you can give it back to the young ones.”
TELTÁLEMOT shares, “This quote became my motto and a big part of my identity.”
Being taught the language in this way has directed TELTÁLEMOT’s approach to sharing SENĆOŦEN with others. While at NIȽ TU,O and out in the community, she’s often received compliments for the way she speaks SENĆOŦEN. TELTÁLEMOT explains, with a hand on her heart “Because of how I learned it, I speak SENĆOŦEN from the heart, for me, it’s rooted in the teachings from the Elders”
At NIȽ TU,O, TELTÁLEMOT’s role is as complex as it is important. While her official role is SENĆOŦEN language teacher, in reality, she does so much more.
In addition to supporting the staff to learning SENĆOŦEN basics like greetings, introductions & pronunciation, TELTÁLEMOT also provides a wealth of spiritual support using culture, language and medicine.
From providing advice on Cultural Protocol, to opening meetings, workshops, and events with encouraging words, to creating Cultural Resources for staff and children, TELTÁLEMOT’s work is a foundational part of NIȽ TU,O’s success.
“With our history as First Nations people, bringing back the language the way it was meant to be spoken is tricky. It’s important to take it slow.”
Little by little, TELTÁLEMOT is making progress on the numerous projects she has in the works for NIȽ TU,O staff, families, and children. She’s currently working on a Canoe Blessing Song and placemats in SENĆOŦEN for the lunch room.
The work of TELTÁLEMOT, along with knowledge keepers, Doug & Kathy LaFortune, support NIȽ TU,O’s mission of providing culturally relevant programming for the children and families they serve.
For more info on programs click here.
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