Chief Dr. Ron Ignace speaking with Secwepemc Elders via Zoom

Translation of COVID phrases in Secwepemctsin

June 09, 2020

By Dr. Marianne Ignace 

The following phrases relating to the COVID-19 epidemic and how we traditionally and in the present should look after one another were prepared by the following Secwepemc Elders on June 2, 2020. We took inspiration from a number of phrases that First Peoples‘ Cultural Council sent around with a request for translation. The following Elders worked together to do this:

  • Daniel Calhoun and Leona Calhoun (Skeetchestn)
  • Christine Simon (Skeetchestn)
  • Mona Jules (Skeetchestn and Simpcw)
  • Marianne Ignace and Ron Ignace (Skeetchestn)
  • Charli Fortier (Simpcw) also helped us out


We connected via video-link, the Elders each having help from a family member in their households, and projected the phrases sent by FPCC, and then everyone chimed in, speaking Secwepemctsin and thinking of how we would say this, coming to agreement and knucwentwécw (helping each other). Marianne Ignace was the “scribe” writing out the sentences on the video-conference (zoom) whiteboard as they watched, suggested, corrected and fine-tuned the sentences.

This was a historic moment in our Secwepemctsin documentation work, since we were able to connect via video link on the iPad tablets that Skeetchestn Indian band and Simon Fraser University kindly had purchased for the Elders. We also thank FPCC and the BC Languages Initiative grant for helping to enable the Elders‘ work.

  1. Taking care of one another. Me7 yecwmentwécw-kt.
  2. Taking care of ourselves. Me7 yecwmenstsút-kt, kwemtús yeri7 re syecwmenstsút-kt.
  3. Cleaning our workplaces, homes. tikwemtús me7 scts̓éwellcw-kt ne c7elkstén̓-kt ell ne tsetsítcw-kt! 
  4. Social distancing or staying apart. Ta7 me7 smimeyentwécw-kt.
  5. Small gatherings. Ta7 put k scwete7úys tek qelmúcw me7 melk̓wilc-et. Ta7 me7 stéwenmentwecw-kt pyin.
  6. Protecting our Elders or knowledge keepers from sicknes. Me7 yecwemíntem re stet̓ex7ém-kt es ta7s es k7eps.
  7. A time of illness. Tsq̓entém re qelmúcw te t̓ícwell te xexé7 te sk7ep.
  8. Washing our hands. Ta7 me7 sllépentem es  ts̓éwkstem-kt tikwemtús. Ta7 us k sllépentp re ts̓éwsten m-ts̓éwkstemep. Me7 xwúsentp re kelkélc-emp.
  9. Connecting with people so we don’t feel alone. Me7 wektwécw-kt ne cts̓emqín̓ten, ell me7 qwel7éyentwécw-kt ne cqweltélkweten es ta7s es cmup-kt (literally: Let‘s see one another on our computing devices, and let‘s talk by phone so we will not be lonely).
  10. Be safe, be calm, be kind. Me7 yecwestsút-kp, me7 qemqém-kt, me7 le7stwécw-kt!

Additional phrases, as suggested:

  1. Ta7us k stsgeyús-kp, (stsp̓iyús = ready to cry) me7 kwemtúses ke7 sqwit̓s.s. Don‘t be angry-faced, always have a smile!
  2. Ta7 us ke7 smimúytsnem. Don‘t yourself cry – in other words, put a brave face on it.
  3. Tsúntels es yecwmenstwécw-kt es ta7s es k7ep-kt nek sllwélsten. We need to look after one another so we will not get sick this fall!