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A walk to remember language

July 11, 2012
Coast Mountain Culture Magazine
Shawn Morris

Long before British Columbia became a province, First Nations thrived on its shores. Greg Sam, a Tsartlip Coast Salish elder and aboriginal relations coordinator at Victoria’s Royal Roads University, greets me near these same shores. “Hul’q’umi’num’,” he says. Welcome. “Let’s walk.”

Until now, the Coast Salish have passed on information exclusively through oral storytelling: nothing written down, nothing recorded. They are now making efforts to preserve their language, teachings and traditions in order to inspire and engage youth, and are partnering with the university to make it happen.

The project is called Tse Tsa Watle, pronounced “Chi Sa Waddle” and means “coming together in interdependence.” The goal is to integrate indigenization into the everyday workings at Royal Roads. All are welcome to participate, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

Sam’s demeanor reflects the patience of his people. His roots are where we stand; the university is situated on traditional Coast Salish territory. During our walk, he pauses conversation to listen to the wind, then he looks at me with intense eyes. “We need to come together,” he says. “And we need to help each other so we can provide a better future for our children and for the Earth. But to do this, we need to understand each other.”