Endangered Stó:lö language supported by program
that trains new teachers

February 19, 2004, vol.29, no.4
By Diane Luckow

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Halq'eméylem. Thousands of years old, it's the endangered language of the Stó:lö people who still live along the banks of the Fraser River between Langley and Yale. Stó:lö, translated into English, means river.

Spoken only by a handful of the very old, Halq'eméylem may soon enjoy a renaissance thanks to an unusual partnership between SFU and the Stó:lö Nation. This month will see the Stó:lö celebrating the first graduates of a new certification program designed to preserve and teach Halq'eméylem in the B.C. school system.

Conceived by Ethel Gardner, a SFU assistant professor in the faculty of education who is also a Stó:lö member, and her predecessor professor Carolyn Kenny, the three-year program incorporates language acquisition and cultural heritage courses about the Stó:lö Nation.

It is a customized 12-month SFU education program focusing on teaching techniques, foundation courses in education and a teaching practicum.

Many of the participants, says Gardner, were already teaching Halq'eméylem on an ad hoc basis in the school system. The new education program, taught by SFU education faculty in a classroom at the Stó:lö Nation, provides students with an accredited developmental standard terms certificate from the B.C. College of Teachers, allowing them to teach in band and public schools in B.C.

“If we took these teachers away from the community to put them through a five-year university education program, the language might be gone because there are so few speakers left,” explains Gardner.

“The program is designed so that graduates may move on to eventually earn a full, professional teaching certificate and be able to teach across the curriculum in public schools.”

The 15 currently enrolled in the program have already been teaching Halq'eméylem in a variety of band and public schools in the Fraser Valley.

“These 15 are a group of people who have committed their lives to learning the language and then learning to become teachers of the language,” says Gardner. “The hope is that at some point they will develop enough fluency in the language to be able to teach in the language.”

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