British Colombia, Canada–Determined to revitalize their near extinct language, a group of “language apprentices” are going to be living together for twelve months in what they call a “language immersion home” to study and practice the Skwo-mesh language. Native speaker Khelsilem, of the Squamish Nation, will join the 3-4 young people to help guide and teach them the art of his language.
Like many indigenous languages, the Squamish language is considered critically endangered. With less than six fluent speakers out of a 4000 person strong Squamish Nation, the language is in dire threat of disappearing forever. In order to prevent utter extinction, a “language immersion house” has been created to cultivate and reclaim the nation’s language.
Fluent elders and other speakers will be visiting the language house on a regular basis to advance the apprentices’ knowledge of the Skwo-mesh language and the Squamish culture. In an attempt to revitalize the dying language, the Language House is showing that there is a practical method to protecting and cultivating a language.
Multidisciplinary artist & educator Khelsilem Rivers, one of the apprentices involved in the language house project, describes the project as “a need and a desire” that can “build a healthier community” and ultimately rebuild “[his] peoples’ library of thought”.
Through the Squamish language website, the Squamish tribe will help document and share their resources. By gaining global awareness for their project, the group hopes to spread their message and attract more potential students.
Because this is a privately funded project, the students have already started a tee-spring campaign to help fundraise their efforts. In order to help fund their experience and pay for their rent, the Skwomesh Language Academy will be launching a $12,000 crowd-funding campaign in October/November.
If the project is successful, it may become the standard for revitalizing and protecting languages all around the world. It is important to remember that all languages are part of the human spirit. When a strand dissolves, a piece of humanity goes along with it. For those are interested in learning more or hoping to donate to their crowd-fundraiser, please visit http://squamishlanguage.com/.