Shuswap Language (Secwépemctsín)

Language is more than simple communication for Secwépemc; it’s a way of life, where words express deeper meanings behind places and objects. Traditional Secwépemc place names represent language, history, culture, and environmental knowledge behind an area, by describing the area in relation to its use, landscape features, or events that happened there. For example, a traditional Secwépemc place name for Golden, B.C. is C7es7istkten, or “Winter.” This word also closely resembles the word for pit-house, C7ístkten̓, which was a traditional Shuswap dwelling in the wintertime. This would suggest that Golden was traditionally used in the winter when Shuswap parties would live in C7ístkten̓ and fish in the frozen waterways nearby.

Secwépemctsín is the Secwépemc language. The word itself roughly translates to “spread out people,” which suits the varied locations of our communities throughout our vast traditional territory. Dialects typically vary within the Secwépemc Nation based on community and place, with Shuswap Band ancestors traditionally speaking a variation of the eastern dialect.

Acts of colonization, including but not limited to the creation of the reserve system, residential schools, loss of salmon in the Columbia River, and the implementation of the Indian Act enforced by Indian Agents, took the language and culture away from our community. Shuswap Band is now in the process of developing programs aimed at reintroducing Secwépemctsín to Shuswap community members. The institution of these programs is a high priority for Shuswap Band as we relearn our native language and form deeper connections with the land and culture that was taken away from us.

Common Words:

  • Hello (to one): Weytk (why-tk)
  • Hello (to many): Weytkp
  • Thank you (to one): Kukstemc (cooks-jam)
  • I Thank you all: kukwstsétsemc
  • We thank you: kukwstec-kuc

To learn more about Secwépemctsín, go to: https://www.firstvoices.com/explore/FV/sections/Data/Secwépemc/Secwépemctsin/Secwépemc/learn


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