Squamish gets its own dictionary today, as preservers of the dying language reveal the fruits of years of documentation by Squamish speakers working with anthropologists and linguists.
The northern Vancouver band, with fewer than 15 fluent Squamish speakers remaining and the youngest at 65, is in danger of losing its language into the next generation. This project marks the first time that Squamish has been gathered together into one spot.
As a press release from the Squamish Nation Department of Education put it, the dictionary not only offers a view of modern daily life but also contains the historical record, protocols and laws of Squamish people that are essential for Nation building and retaining its very culture. Squamish is one of a family of languages spoken only in western Canada and the western U.S., and the Nation offers bilingual, bicultural education in its tribal school as well as to 400-plus students in the public school system, the release said.
Key to development of this resource have been Squamish elders, who contributed their collective knowledge. The dictionary is published by the University of Washington Press and distributed worldwide.