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Language Family: Interior Salish

Language known as: Shuswap, Secwepemc, Secwepemctsin A
Key Phrases
SecwepemctsinA - Secwepemc language
For more key phrases see the First Voices Archive

Secwepemctsín – Language of the Secwepemc

Secwepemctsín contains the cultural, ecological, and historical knowledge which includes: values, beliefs, rituals, songs, stories, social and political structures and spirituality of the people. The Secwepemc view all aspects of their knowledge, including language, as vitally linked to the land. This knowledge, passed down to the next generations orally, contained the teachings necessary for maintenance of Secwepemc culture and identity.

As the Secwepemc were given the land; they were also given a language. Language was given to the Secwepemc by the Creator for communication to the people and to the natural world. This communication created a reciprocal and cooperative relationship between them and the natural world which allowed the Secwepemc enabled them to survive and flourish in harsh environments. For example, the Secwepemc receive messages from the animals and birds who tell them when it is time to harvest and gather certain foods and medicines. The cricket will tell the Secwepemc when it is time to catch the salmon.

The language connects the land and the people. The language contains the mental, physical, and spiritual connectedness of the Secwepemc to the land. It protects and maintains all forms of Secwepemc knowledge, It keeps the people whole and connected to the Creator. It maintains the Secwepemc responsibility to the land. The language contains traditional ecological knowledge needed to protect biodiversity and it is used to transmit all forms of knowledge to future generations.

Secwepemctsín (language of the Secwepemc)

Secwepemctsín (language of the Secwepemc) is one of the Interior Salish languages of the large Salishan language family. Secwepemctsín sound system consists of 43 consonants and 5 vowels. Many of these sounds are not found in the English language and are difficult to learn. The present writing system for Secwepemctsín was developed by a Dutch linguist (Kuipers) approximately twenty years ago. Until that time, Secwepemctsín remained an oral language. The Kuipers system of writing Secwepemctsín is not accurate as the vowel sounds do not represent the Secwepemc sounds accurately. The international alphabet system much more accurately represents the Secwepemc sounds.

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State of the Language

First Nation Population Fluent Speakers Understand or Speak Somewhat Learning Speakers
Canoe Creek172572041
Kenpesq't (Shuswap)2238120
Llenlleney'ten (High Bar)395000
Pellt'iq't (Whispering Pines/Clinton)515061420
Sexqeltqín (Adams Lake)4673198982
Skwlax (Little Shuswap)430852052
St'uxwtéws (Bonaparte)4793201329
T'exelcemc (Williams Lake)1744721299
Tk'emlups (Kamloops)810583197178
Tsq'escenemc (Canim Lake)1585114557
Xats'ull (Soda Creek)14151233
Footnotes / References
1. Language Data from Spi7uy Squqluts Language and Culture Society (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3143
2. Language Data from shuswap Indian Band (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3443
3. Language Data from High Bar First Nation (2011), Language Needs Assessment #2580
4. Language Data from Secwepemc Cultural Education Society (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3128
5. Language Data from Whispering Pines/ Clinton Indian Band (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3174
6. Language Data from Skeetchestn Indian Band (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3440
7. Language Data from Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3391
8. Language Data from Tk'emlups te Secwepemc (Kamloops Indian Band) (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3402

Audio Clip References
A. Secwepemctsin - Chelsea, Phyllis & Andy Chelsea (2009, Feb. 16). Interview with Phyllis and Andy Chelsea.