Take the Indian Horse challenge to learn a phrase or two in Ucwalmicwts

Once a month, or so, an invitation lands in my inbox. 

This month, the invitation came courtesy of Professor Shirley Williams who was born and raised in Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island and now resides in Peterborough. She has lectured across Ontario promoting Nishnaabe language and Culture. She received her B.A. in Native Studies from Trent University. She received her diploma in Native Language Instructor’s Program, Lakehead University and did her M.A. at York University on Environmental Studies on Language and Culture on Manitoulin Dialect. Shirley has lectured across Ontario promoting Nishnaabe language and Culture.

“It’s really good to introduce yourself in the language because it’s a sign of respect. We need to respect each others’ dialects, we need to respect the languages of this world.”

Shirley’s Challenge

“I challenge you to learn about the Indigenous languages that are from the place where you live. Explore online resources related to the language, learn how to say “hello” and then introduce yourself to us on social media with the hashtag #WelcomingIndigenousLanguages!”

About This Challenge

For so many generations learning, speaking or passing on languages Indigenous in Canada was a crime. In Residential Schools, generations of Indigenous youth were subjected to severe punishment and humiliation for speaking or practicing their languages – so much so that even outside of Residential School many were unwilling or unable to pass their knowledge of the language on to their own families. Some feared that their children would be punished or otherwise targeted for their accents or for speaking the languages in mainstream Canada, and others simply did not know the languages anymore in order to pass them on.

Indigenous people had to hide their languages and the perspectives, worldviews and knowledge systems that the languages contain. For so many years, the languages were hidden and protected; some were lost, some are only now being found again, and some are starting to once more thrive upon these territories. As individuals, we can support Indigenous languages by welcoming them into our lives, utilizing the resources that already exist to learn these languages, and provide support for additional resources to be created and made accessible.

Understanding the importance of Ucwalmicts:

In the St’at’imc language, the name for “land” is Tmicw, the name for the “people of the land” is Ucwalmicw, and the name of the “language” is Ucwalmicts. These three words are closely related in the language of the St’at’imc people and show how the land, the people and the language are all powerfully tied together. What happens to one happens to the others is the guiding principle of Xaxli’p attitudes toward land use. This means that when you damage one part of the three (land, people, language) you damage all. (via http://xaxlip.ca/about-us/language-culture-values/)

The Lil’wat Nation’s First Voices Portal is a good place to start.

About Líl̓wat Nation, the language, and the people:

“Pelpala7wít i ucwalmícwa múta7 ti tmícw” (The people and land are one.)

We are the Lil̓wat7úl, an Interior Salish people. While Líl̓wat Nation is a separate and distinct Nation, it remains part of the St̓át̓y̓emc Nation. We live in a stunning coast mountain environment with dramatic landscapes and rich biodiversity. It’s a mysterious place of towering mountains, ice fields, alpine meadows, white-water rivers and braided river valleys. Our community’s name means “where rivers meet,” a reference to Lílwat Nation’s vast, unceded Traditional Territory that encompasses the headwaters of the Green, Lillooet and the Birkenhead rivers.

Our language is called Ucwalmícwts. Currently, fewer than three per cent of our people are fluent speakers. To address this issue, we have developed a language retention strategy built on a foundation of Nt̓ákmen (Our Way) and Nxékmen (Our Laws.) To support this strategy, Ucwalmícwts is and essential part of the curriculum at our local elementary and high schools. Our post-secondary institution, the Ts̓zil Learning Centre, offers a two-year Líl̓wat Nation Language and Culture Certificate in conjunction with Capilano University. Also, from K- Grade 3, our children that are attending Xet̓ólacw Community School have the opportunity to receive the first four years of their education in the Ucwalmícwts Immersion program where all courses are taught in our language.

Linguist Dr. Jan Van Eijk and his team from Simon Fraser University developed our written language in 1974. It should be noted that Van Eijk’s style of orthography — the letters and symbols that make up the conventional spelling system of a language — results in some words, such as St̓át̓y̓emc, being spelled various ways. (St̓at̓ýemc is also spelled St’atl’imx and St’at’imc.) A variant spelling of St̓at̓ýemc means that the writer is using a different orthography.

Since the inception of written Ucwalmícwts, we have published textbooks, storybooks and two editions. Our children are learning the language from Elders and bringing the language home to their families. The message that Ucwalmícwts is the foundation of our culture is being heard, and the call to speak our language is being answered.

Listen to our words, and explore the Líl̓wat Language! CUYSTWÍ MALH UCWALMÍCWTS- let’s all go speak our Language!

Please contact me if have any suggestions or see anything that needs to be changed or clarified. Your help is very beneficial.


Contact Information

Mamáya7 Lois Joseph
Líl̓wat7úl Culture Centre Manager
82 #10 Road
Mount Currie B.C.
V0N 2K0
Phone: (604) 894 6115
Fax: (604) 894 6841

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s