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Musqueam Community Shares Their Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Language

indigenous languages day

Formally recognized in 1993, March 31 is National Indigenous Languages Day. This day strives to raise public awareness about Indigenous languages – many of which are endangered. It also is a day giving occasion to conversations about the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages. And it also serves as a call for the protection and recognition of the fundamental role language plays in the identity of Indigenous peoples. On this day, VSB acknowledges the commitment of the Musqueam Nation and community to revitalize their language and their gift of sharing it with students in schools across Vancouver. 

In the 1970s, the Musqueam community began a journey toward language revitalization. In 1997, they formally adopted the North American Phonetic Alphabet (NAPA). Unlike the English alphabet, NAPA has specialized symbols designed to document languages accurately and is an effective language teaching tool. 

Over time, the Musqueam Language and Culture Department developed a teaching kit for use in schools – to share about their history, traditions, values and language that have existed for millennia on these lands. Co-created with the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), this kit is available to teachers in elementary schools who guide their students to explore Musqueam cultural, traditions and protocols. 

The teaching kit includes hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet cards and the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ pronunciation guide along with suggestions for class activities and student discussions. The teaching kit also includes a series of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ storybooks, created by the Musqueam Language and Cultural Department to encourage language use and revitalization. Among the books are: 

  • tə speʔəθ ʔiʔ kwθə kwasən (The Bear and the Star) ­– The story of the origin of the Big Bear (Big Dipper/Ursa Major)
  •  χpey̓əɬp (Cedar Tree) ­­– The life cycle of the cedar tree and its connection to the Musqueam community. 
  • ctamət tə sweyəl? (How’s The Weather?) – Basic elements of weather and the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ names associated with weather phenomena. 

On this National Indigenous Languages Day, we give thanks to the Musqueam community for sharing their language, culture and traditions with learners – young and old – throughout Vancouver. We also honour their work to reverse the effects of colonization on their people through the revitalization of their language and living their traditions and ways of being and give them thanks for sharing their wisdom and teachings.

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