The Katzie Project

Leah Meunier of the Katzie First Nation, (KFN), along with Peter James, Debbie Miller and Paula Leon of the KFN Language Authority, in partnership with consultant linguists Dr. Susan Russell (SFU) & Dr. Mercedes Hinkson (editor), have been developing curriculum in Downriver Hən̓qə̓mínə̓m for community use.

This material is being piloted by Leah in a community-based language program for the Kwikwi’ƛ̓əm band after a prior run with children in the Katzie community. The curriculum is multi-level to accommodate adult and children learners but is primarily oral, interactive and uses a variety of evidence-based language learning approaches.

Katzie children live in three communities without any fluent elders present and little systematic exposure to their traditional language. Although there is a rich body of linguistic documentation on the language, the available learning materials are not really accessible to non-linguists without formal courses. The (phonetic) orthography renders these materials even more inaccessible to more than a handful of linguistically trained community members. The primary goal of this project was inspired by former KFN Chief Ed Pierre and the KFN elders’ group who saw a critical and primary need to reach the community’s own children through a ‘natural’ and oral approach and is being realized through the ongoing support of current Chief and Council.

Originally the language project was also able to connect the curriculum group with the last known fluent native speaker of Downriver Hən̓qə̓mínə̓m̓, Josephine Good. Members of the Language Authority visited Josephine seven times at her home in Snənéməxw (Nanaimo). These visits were recorded and transcribed and formed the basis of ten units of curriculum along with ten children’s stories based on everyday, child-centred activities.

The group is now consulting with Chief and Council and the Katzie elders group for feedback on the curriculum and clarification on the next step. We will also adjust the curriculum though feedback from learner groups. For Level 2, we anticipate fostering the development of more fluent and complex language use through stories, drama and more specifically, traditional cultural activities incorporating Hən̓qə̓mínə̓m̓.

As well as the curriculum, the Katzie-SFU partnership has also sponsored the transcription and translation of a 50 minute conversation between two fluent speakers of Upriver Halq’emélem, recorded over ten years ago by Susan Russell. This has been worked on by one of the original speakers and two community based linguists, and will provide we think the only such record of an extended everyday conversation in Halq’emélem. In the hopes of making it available to language learners and teachers it will be presented as a paper at the upcoming Salish conference in 2016.

Josephine and Leah