A Platform for Action – Promoting and Preserving Our Languages

We know that much of our culture and worldview is embedded in our languages and that to be whole we must deepen our efforts to promote and preserve this birthright from our ancestors. There is no greater evidence of the depth of our connection to the territories across what is now called British Columbia than the diversity of languages that developed here over millennia. Who we are, how we relate to each other and understand the universe is all encoded and embedded in the words and grammar of our languages.

Knowing this, the architects of colonialism launched a direct assault on our languages through the residential school system and elsewhere. Our languages were debased and devalued. They were beaten out of us and our tongues were stabbed with needles if we dared to have our languages in our mouths. Notwithstanding this onslaught, our peoples proved to be resilient and unwilling to give up and lose this aspect of our culture and identity. And yet, much damage has been done that must be repaired.

Over the decades, this truth has been recognized by many – people like my grandmother Kwulasulwut (Dr. Ellen White) – who went to university to learn the tools of linguistics to equip herself to help to preserve and pass on Hulquminum to our family and our peoples. This work continues across the province in different ways – in urban setting and in Indigenous communities – in academic settings and around dining room tables in homes – wherever our people have taken the critical steps to maintain fluency and knowledge of our languages.

The language leadership shown over this time period deserves our deep gratitude and respect now. The best way we can show that is to make this work a high priority. Eight language families and more than 30 languages are spoken throughout British Columbia. We must redouble our efforts and support and build upon existing programs and efforts. As Regional Chief, I will work as an advocate and a partner to those that have already contributed so much to this important work and help to build the pathway for future generations where our languages find full voice in the mouths and hearts of our people.