If everyone were to learn one word or phrase in the Hul’qumi’num language, Willie Seymour would wish it to be snuwyulah. “It means ‘life teachings,’ ” said Seymour, an elder from the Stzumainus First Nation in Chemainus.
Seymour is one of the few remaining fluent speakers of Hul’qumi’num. He was raised speaking the language with his grandparents and has spent the past 35 years as a ceremonial speaker and teacher.
“Many of our disciplines and cultural teachings come through the language,” Seymour said, noting there’s great interest among First Nations and the wider community in learning Hul’qumi’num.
This is why a Victoria group is raising funds and awareness for a series of language classes taught by Seymour in late summer or early fall. The classes are a continuation of popular a session offered last year and will be run in Victoria, Duncan and Chemainus. Everyone is welcome and classes include pronunciation, basic vocabulary, phrases and cultural context.
“It’s a way to save our language and share knowledge,” said Meaghie Champion, a Cowichan Tribes member who facilitated previous language classes with Seymour. She is also the founder of tetla, an alternative currency that funds a Coast Salish cultural program called Snuwuyth Lelum, or Tradition House.
Champion said that while they do not charge for the Hul’qumi’num language classes, they want to sponsor Seymour’s travel and offer tetlas for groceries as an honorarium.
“It doesn’t feel right to charge my people for our language classes,” she said, which is why they are seeking donations of gas and grocery gift cards or cash donations for the 12-week session.
For more information, call Champion at 778-440-1102 or visit the Hul’qumi’num Home Learners Facebook page.