Languages of Pauquachin First Nation

In the Pauquachin community, the two traditional languages that are spoken and written are HUL'Q'UMI'NUM' and SENĆOŦEN. National statistics show that there are 30 Pauquachin members who have capacity in Aboriginal languages. The limited number of community members fluent in traditional languages comes from the First Nations history of colonization. Former government policies forced the removal of children from their families to residential schools. In these schools, the Saanich children began to experience denial of their language and culture. Over the years, this created a communication gap between the older generation who were still at home speaking the traditional languages and those who were assimilated into the Western education system.

Development of the Language

The revival of the SENĆOŦEN language was spearheaded by Dave Elliott, who is a member of Tsartlip. In the 1970s, Elliott worked towards developing a SENĆOŦEN alphabet system in order to have a tool to record the language. In 1984 the WSÁNEĆ School Board adopted the Dave Elliott Alphabet to help preserve the SENĆOŦEN language and history (WSÁNEĆ School Board, 2015). There are existing programs in the surrounding First Nations communities that help teach traditional languages to local residents. The LÁU, WELNEW tribal school offers an adult language class and immersion program in SENĆOŦEN. In Pauquachin, the band office hired a Culture and Language Worker from 2011 to 2013. This staff member provided language training in HUL'Q'UMI'NUM' for band office staff and community members.

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“Our language is more than just a spoken word. Within our language is our SYESES (History), ĆELÁNEN (Birth Right), SNEPENEḴ (Teachings), and SX̱INÁNS (Ways of Being). Learning, knowing and understanding our language gives us a sense of belonging and knowing who we are and where we come from.”

– SI,OLTENOT Bartleman