Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Ronald Ignace (Simon Fraser University)
Like all other languages throughout northwestern North America, Secwepemctsin (the Shuswap language), has a small and shrinking number of fluent speakers, including the presenter, who were raised into the language, and are collaborating with other speakers and learners to sustain the language into the future. While we rely on, and are grateful for the work of past linguists and ethnographers (Kuipers 1974, 1983, 1989), we are keenly aware how this work was produced in a colonial context and at a time when children were still separated from their parents, and elders, assimilated into English in Residential Schools, separating our people into what are often inflated numbers of “speakers” and “non-speakers,” thus creating disjunctures. Moreover, academic discourses on our people, lives, laws and knowledge separated our ways of being and communicating on our land into disciplines, as our land was profoundly altered, and our access to it denied. We present our ways of re-claiming our language and knowledge through collaborative story-work among speakers and learners where we re-imagine the past of our language in its multiple dimensions of ecological and kin-centric knowledge and ways of communicating, in order to give it a future. We begin with our own philosophy of how we come to know (stslexemwílc), guided by relational and reciprocal accountability among humans and the land, and of respect and responsibility for one another. We then employ these principles to not only analyse, but also re-claim and perform ways of telling that connect us to the speech of our ancestors.