By Adam Kveton – Parksville Qualicum Beach News
January 2, 2018 – Students in three School District 69 (Qualicum) schools are being taught Hul’qami’num, a First Nations language.
The teaching began as a pilot project in September, 2015.
There’s now so much demand for the district’s one Hul’qami’num language instructor, Colleen Manson, that the district’s Indigenous resource teacher, Carrie Reid, has developed a software tool to help kids learn.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Reid said of her role in helping more people learn Hul’qami’num. “I was just playing with the software. I didn’t know I was doing something exciting.”
The district’s Indigenous education program principal, Rosie McLeod-Shannon, said the goal of the program is to foster greater understanding of the people who spoke (and continue to speak) the language, as well as to keep it going.
“Our hope in the beginning was to create this understanding of the language and how important the language is,” she said.
“We felt that the more kids learn about the language of the people, the more respect for the people and the land they would have and create a better understanding between themselves and others.”
When trying to understanding a person’s or a group’s actions, it helps to understand how they think, and the language they speak can have a big impact on that, said McLeod-Shannon.
“It also keeps the language alive,” she said. “(The program) is to revitalize the language that was spoken and then lost in many cases.”
One of those cases is Pentlatch.
That’s the language that was mostly spoken in the area where SD69 operates, said Reid. “The last speaker died in the ’70s,” she said.
The Hul’qami’num language is a Coast Salish language spoken by First Nations groups in areas of the east coast of the Island, as well as the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley.
In a 2014 study of B.C. First Nations languages, 1.4 per cent of the people in the communities that traditionally speak the language are fluent, while 5.2 per cent speak some of the language, and 10.9 per cent are learning.
In general, the report shows, the number of semi-fluent speakers of First Nations languages is up.
Classes in Bowser, Nanoose Bay and Qualicum Beach elementary schools are contributing to that growth with the Hul’qami’num language instruction.
Qualicum Beach Elementary (QBES) is the newest addition to the program.