First Nation welcomes language coordinator role

·3 min read

Climbing down from Tla’amin’sfamily tree project, Randolph Timothy Jr. has begun a new path as the Nation’s new language coordinator.

“There had been a job posting late last year, so I had applied and a few months later I got an interview,” says Randolph.

Fast forwarding a couple months and Randolph said he was asked to wrap up the family tree project and start up the language program. “I was officially hired on March 23 and am starting to get things organized.”

The family tree project is a system that shows all of Tla’amin’s family ties going back about seven generations, with babies being born each year, the family trees never really end.

Randolph says while he is still helping the Sister Nations (Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks) set up their family trees and adding the children born each year in Tla’amin, he hopes to promote the daily usage of ʔayʔaǰuθəm through his new role.

“I think it’s really cool that the city has taken on using our place names and our language. Right now I have a great group of people who are the program’s working group, who all range in level of fluency from fluent speakers to advanced learners, whose knowledge of the orthography also plays a key role, which will help organize the language program.”

Randolph says the working group will consist of Elders Dr. Elsie Paul and Freddy Louie, Gail Blaney, Drew Blaney, Tla’amin’s Culture and Heritage Manager, Dana Gustafson of Tla’amin’s Child Development and Resource Centre, Koosen Gonzales of Jeh Jeh Media, UBC student Marianne Huijsmans, SD47 teacher Karina Peters. Betty Wilson and Randy Timothy Sr. are also key players that make up this group as they have been active since the beginning of the project about 20 years ago.

“Marianne is currently teaching language classes on Mondays that I will be attending online via zoom.

"I have also been given the green light to start up a language class for the Nation that will be open to all qathet residents, which I am currently sorting out.”

The language class will educate all levels of fluency, which are broken into four levels: fluent, under-fluent, advanced learner, and basic learner. “Right now I’d say for myself I am an advanced learner, there is still a lot of ʔayʔaǰuθəm to learn,” says Randolph.

“It is really important to preserve our language, because it is a language considered to be endangered. There are about five fluent speakers left in Tla’amin. I am excited but nervous about the future.”

Randolph says the language coordinator is important for Tla’amin because the role and programs create a tool for ʔayʔaǰuθəm to carry on. “It’s a tool to help reintroduce our language to citizens who don’t know and want to learn. We are also trying to establish orthography usage into our computers and systems.”

Orthography is the spelling system of a language, Tla’amin is working on putting ʔayʔaǰuθəm characters into the technology the Nation uses.

“I have a meeting coming up soon with the Sister Nations where we will decide how we will all move forward with the language projects, we want to work together because we all speak the ʔayʔaǰuθəm language,” Randolph says.

Abby Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, qathet Living

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