By JUSTIN BEDDALL
Reporter, North Shore News
January 15, 2016 – A decade ago the Squamish Nation language was in jeopardy, with only 10 fluent speakers remaining, many of them elderly.
At that time, Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation member, was a 16-year-old student at Carson Graham secondary. Rather than taking French or Spanish as a language elective, he signed up for Squamish.
“I remember feeling like we need to do more,” he said. “I was really worried about what would happen to our language if we didn’t do more.”
He’s done a lot more since then. First learning to speak Squamish himself, then teaching others at his father’s home through informal language nights and then starting a non-profit called Kwi Awt Stelmexw that’s focused on the language, cultural and artistic revitalization of his community.
The latest step is a new partnership with Simon Fraser University to launch a two-year full-time Squamish Language adult immersion program that’s now accepting applications for the 2016-’17 school year.
The program’s goal is to graduate 15 speakers of the language each year with the hope of adding 150 fluent Squamish speakers by 2027.
There will be space for 15 students each year, who will spend 1,000 hours of classroom time taught exclusively in Squamish language.
“I think that the road to a thriving language community is still a long road from here. I believe that our goal as a community should be to have a minimum of 10 per cent of the community being able to speak their Squamish language as their first language. And I think that everything that we do from now until that point is all part of the collaborative and collective work that we’re doing together to achieve that,” said Khelsilem.
READY FULL ARTICLE: Beddall, Justin. “New Initiative To Save Squamish Language“. North Shore News. N. p., 2016. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.