Salish language is our most urgent area of work. It is the core of our culture. If the language is lost, a crucial part of our way of life will go with it. Unless we make a determined, aggressive effort to save it, Salish will become one of the ninety-eight percent of native languages that will soon become extinct. If our language is to survive, we must add to our rapidly dwindling numbers of fluent speakers. It is critical that younger tribal members learn and gain fluency.
The CSKT Tribal Council has directed the culture committees to oversee and direct all language efforts on the reservation. In addition to ongoing language planning efforts, we are continuing this work, with the help of our elders. In the early years of the Culture Committee, staff members worked with linguists in refining the International Phonetic Alphabet for writing the Salish language. Out of that work the Committee developed books on Salish grammar and vocabulary and began teaching language classes. We continue to publish Salish language materials, including books, audio tapes, and CDs to assist students learning the language. We continue to translate and transcribe recordings of elders speaking in the Salish language. We record a weekly program, “Salish Language with Shirley Trahan,” for broadcast on SKC-TV.
Depending on funding, we hold a week-long language and culture camp in June, teaching Salish sounds, words, and sentence formation, as well as many cultural activities: beading, sewing dresses, making moccasins and gloves, constructing bustles, making bows & arrows, flint knapping, beading and sewing pouches, and many other traditional areas of knowledge. Language and culture camps are a great way to share traditional stories of lifeways and roles. Many hours are spent with elders-teachers, students and SPCC staff sharing these traditions.
SPCC language publications:
- Common Names of the Salish-Pend d'Oreille Language
- Animal Names
- Salish Clothing
- Salish Culture Language Materials Book 1 (w/ audio casette or CD)
- Salish Language Picture Book
- Salish Language Vocabulary Word List (w/ audio casette or CD)
Language is also an integral part of the SPCC Tribal History and Ethnogeography Projects. The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition contained significant bilingual passages, as will the other books being produced as part of those projects, including a history of the Swan massacre of 1908 and an ethnogeography of the Salish and Pend d'Oreille people.