Carrie Gillon: Hi and welcome to the Vocal Fries podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.
Megan Figueroa: I’m Megan Figueroa
Carrie Gillon: and I’m Carrie Gillon.
Megan Figueroa: Hello over there.
Carrie Gillon: So this has been going on for a while now, but this week, You know, probably be passed. Quebec is probably going to approve Bill 96, which is a law that’s supposed to protect the French language in the province. So it’s basically a major reform of a bunch of different legislation that already exists. And there’s already the Charter of the French language. Which basically it basically made French the most important language in Quebec. It was a way to protect French from English because it was, yeah, it needed to be protected. English was everywhere and was like threatening to take over, even in Quebec. But at this point it feels like, okay, it’s, that’s done its job. And French seems pretty solid now in comparison. But if it feels like now they’re trying to increase French even more. And that has some effects of on other people, right? Speakers of English or speakers of other languages.
Megan Figueroa: In what way is it practically trying to like, to make sure it’s still on like government building? Like, isn’t it everywhere anyway? Like what, what are they trying to accomplish? What’s being taken away?
Carrie Gillon: Okay. So this bill will cap the number of students who can enter the English language colleges. Basically, they’re kind of like a one-year well, at least they used to be, maybe it’s different now, but they used to be the one-year college ish thing that would bridge the gap between high school and university.
Megan Figueroa: They would want to cap that.
Carrie Gillon: They want to cap the number who are going to the English ones.
Megan Figueroa: Oh, they have French ones too.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah.
Megan Figueroa: Okay.
Carrie Gillon: So the number of students in the English language, CEGEPs can’t be higher than it was in the school year before and cannot surpass 17.5% of the overall student population in Quebec.
It’s complicated. But basically if you are actually an English speaker, like that’s your first language. Then there’s a bunch of like exceptions, so you can learn French second language courses. So they just teach you how to speak and write in French. But if you’re a speaker of any other language, then you have to speak, you have to take courses, content courses in French at this English CEGEP. So you’re basically in immersion for three of those courses.
Megan Figueroa: Okay.
Carrie Gillon: which is hard
Megan Figueroa: Yeah.
Carrie Gillon: And then if you’re an English again, an English first language speaker, you don’t have to take the French exam at the end of your CEGEP. But if you’re a speaker of another language, then you do.
Megan Figueroa: Okay. I see what they’re trying to do. So this is complicated. I thought it was just be like so simple and straightforward, like, you know, no, it’s okay. So French is fine. Like French as a global language is fine. Right.
Carrie Gillon: And it was even at the time. Right. But at the time in the sixties, it was threatened and it made sense to create some legislation to protect it. Unfortunately that had some knock on effects on other languages that were not English.
Megan Figueroa: Right, right, right.
Carrie Gillon: So many indigenous languages. But at this point it feels like French in Quebec is a lot, a lot more solid ground than it was at the time when it first started trying to protect it.
Megan Figueroa: Right.
Carrie Gillon: And then there’s healthcare issues. So government entities must in an, “in an exemplary manner use the French language, promote its quality ensure its development in Quebec, and protect it.” There is an exception where health, public safety or the principles of natural justice so require. But. There’s also another section that says that a government agency cannot quote, “make systematic use of that other language.” so like you’re allowed to sometimes use English or another language, but you can’t use it consistently, I guess.
Megan Figueroa: And so all of this is meant to be done in French mostly, but there are situations where it could be done in English, but you can’t really be guaranteed that.
Carrie Gillon: Right. You know, they’re claiming that everybody who wants to receive health services in English can receive it in English. If you’re an English speaking Quebecker or, or a recent immigrant or a tourist, you can receive it in English. So they’re saying that nothing has changed, but the law as it’s written makes that very unclear.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah.
Carrie Gillon: Functionally, my guess is since English has always been available in the healthcare system in Quebec, it’s going to continue to be available.
Megan Figueroa: Is there french sign language? And is that protected within the, just French, the, this as well?
Carrie Gillon: No, it’s not the same language. So no. This law is not about that. It’s only about French. That’s what I’m saying. Like it only protects one language and that is French.
Right now you have the right to seek justice in the courts in either English or French. That’s that applies across the country. And apparently that they say that that’s not going to change in Quebec, but they have changed one of the provisions for judges. So judges will no longer have to have a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language. So that means they might not have your, your judge might not be an English speaker or might not have enough English to give you a proper trial.
Megan Figueroa: Without interpretation services.
Carrie Gillon: Well, they could use interpretation services, but again, that’s not less than ideal.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah.
Carrie Gillon: The best case is that the judge speaks a language that you speak, right. If the French language and the Justice Ministers agree, they can say, okay, a judge has to be bilingual. But only if there’s other ever option has been exhausted. I don’t know. It’s this seems really complicated. And I just, it seems like having an a bilingual judge, an English- French bilingual judge is no longer going to be the rule in Quebec.
Megan Figueroa: And this is meant to protect French. Still
Carrie Gillon: let’s see. Okay. Now the Quebec has a Language Office and they’re going to be able to investigate businesses suspected of not operating in French.
Megan Figueroa: Oh.
Carrie Gillon: Before this bill only businesses with 50 employees or more had to have a plan to ensure French was the common language of the workplace. This included having a French committee and a certificate from the government, validating that the business’s common language is French. But now it’s going down to businesses with as few as 25 employees.
Megan Figueroa: This is wild to me.
Carrie Gillon: And employers will not be able to require knowledge of any other language other than French while hiring or promoting employees, which seems completely inappropriate for some jobs.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah.
Carrie Gillon: It seems a bit draconian.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. That’s wild. That is wild.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. And constitutional experts are now concerned. Like what could happen when a business is suspected of like, not being French enough?
Megan Figueroa: Yes. That’s. I mean, that’s my, ideally you would think that the law would be like opposite of what they’re trying to do, like to protect like equal equal protection under the law or whatever. I mean that’s
Carrie Gillon: yeah. That’s not equal protection. It’s French above all else. And that’s, that’s been the case since the sixties and yeah, we were just making it more, more, more so. And, you know, at the beginning, like it made sense to protect it against English. Of course, I still think they went a little too far in some ways, because like, there are other languages it’s not just English and French in this country.
Megan Figueroa: Right.
Carrie Gillon: As they know, but they pretend not to. So they’ve always had this ability to investigate, you know, whether companies were not being French enough, but that power was always limited by the Canadian Charter, which protects Canadians from unreasonable search and seizure. But now the Bill 96 invokes what’s called the Notwithstanding Clause. Basically, it’s like, basically it says, well, “we’re just going to ignore this part of the, of the Canadian Charter, because we’re allowed to” cause that’s it, that was written into the constitution for complicated reasons anyways, so yeah. It’s yeah, not great.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, no, I just thinking about, I mean, it sounds like it’s kind of similar there, but all the laws this would be in violation of in the US but yeah, the search and seizure, the just equal protection under the law and several amendments that we have, or, you know, there’s, there, there are several ways to protect that. Not that that always works out very well, especially for language in the US but it seems like Quebec has it so they’re protecting French above all else. And they’re doing a good job of it legally.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. The United States, it just, it wouldn’t even have been applied at all because there’s no law on the book about language, right? Like you can’t force a company to work in any language. It’s
Megan Figueroa: you can’t people get around that.
Carrie Gillon: No, but I’m saying you government can’t impose English on a workplace.
Megan Figueroa: Well,
Carrie Gillon: They can’t and they wouldn’t try, at least, at least maybe Trump would maybe, you know where it as it is now. No, there’s no such thing.
So the other group of people that this affects is any. Any newcomers. Right? So refugees and immigrants are allowed to get services in English or another language for six months after their arrival. And then after that exclusively in French.
Megan Figueroa: Nope, Nope. Six. Who are these people? They’re like in six months you will know enough .
Carrie Gillon: Right. So, so if a government worker was helping someone whose language was, let’s say Italian and they spoke Italian. So for the first six months, they could help them in Italian. And then at that six month mark switch, switch to French.
Megan Figueroa: It’s crazy.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah, no six months is definitely not enough time. I don’t think it’s appropriate ever to do this to a refugee or immigrant, but
Megan Figueroa: oh yeah.
Carrie Gillon: I mean, it’s hard enough that they have to choose between English or French. Generally speaking, I mean, in the rest of the country depending on where you are, you end up, there’s probably some support for like most of the major languages. So there’s, you know, probably something where you can, but, but in Quebec, you’re just like, nah, after six months, it’s just French, that’s it. You’re like it’s already hard enough to have to like learn French or English.
Megan Figueroa: This is awful.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. So anyway, that’s Quebec. The situation is complicated and yeah, it’s a mess and people are mad.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Interesting, interesting stuff. Complex.
Carrie Gillon: Yup.
Megan Figueroa: Our episode today. God, I love this conversation. I loved it so much.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah, it’s great. We talked all about Pentlatch, which is a Salish language. Coast Salish language spoken on Vancouver Island.
All right. So today we’re very excited to have the Working Pentlatch Revitalization Team. And I’m introducing them in alphabetical order.
Matthew Andreatta is a member of the Qualicum and Musqueam First Nations and an artist and 2D illustration word wood carvings.
Jesse Recalma is a member of the Qualicum First Nation and contemporary Coast Salish artist.
Chief Michael Recalma is the Chief of Qualicum First Nation
and Dr. Su Urbanczyk is a linguist at the University of Victoria who’s been studying the Salish and Wakashan languages spoken on Vancouver Island for many years. She’s worked with several communities on Vancouver island to support a number of their language revitalization projects. Her interest in linguistic theory and documentation relate to sound and word patterns, especially words that involve copying to express a new meaning. And was once one of my professors.
So welcome all of you.
Megan Figueroa: Oh, I’m so happy. I’m so excited to talk to artists too, by the way. I didn’t realize that little bit about you also. That’s exciting.
Carrie Gillon: Can you explain what the project you’re all working on is. Maybe we can start with Chief Michael Recalma.
Chief Michael Recalma: My vision was to have the language revitalized or try to wake it up. And that was a few years ago. It was like four or five now, and kind of start with a conversation with a Deputy Minister. And then we got seed funding. We being the, the, the band got funding from the Ministry of Indigenous relations and reconciliation. And from there. We just continued on hiring people to work the team, to work with this revitalization project. And here we sit, this many years later with the with the language being reawakened
Megan Figueroa: as an American, could somebody explain the, I didn’t get quite the whole title, but the reconciliation. What, what kind of funds or is that a government, like a Canadian government thing?
Chief Michael Recalma: It’s the provincial government, a wing of the provincial government.
Megan Figueroa: Okay. And then you can apply for funds.
Chief Michael Recalma: Yes, you can. And we did, we didn’t know where we were going to go, but yeah, we started there.
Mathew Andreatta: The government here has a sort of a gesture towards reconciliation in offering funds to help projects like ours. It’s complicated because at the same time that funding was cut when we first got it too. Yeah. It’s an interesting situation, but it is, it is funding from the government to show that they’re dedicated to a form of reconciliation.
Megan Figueroa: Does it feel more like a gesture?
Mathew Andreatta: Yeah. I think a loaded, a bit of a loaded question, because what more would we want them to do? It’s not like I would want any closer hands on the work that we’re doing. And also, how can you undo what has been done anyway? So like it’s, it becomes a question of, well, what do you want then?
Carrie Gillon: That’s a good place to ask this question. So yeah. What is Pentlatch and where was it spoken?
Jesse Recalma: So Pentlatch is a language that’s considered to be in the Northern Coast Salish dialect of or region of the Coast Salish languages. And from what we know, it was spoken from about northernly around the Comox Valley and in the, the Harbor in, in Comox down south towards Englishman River by Parksville. Sort of generally our island’s kind of divided by a central mountain range. So we kinda find ourselves at a border there and then as well sort of really overlapping with a lot of the Gulf islands around Denman and Hornby and Lasqueti and Texada Islands as well.
Megan Figueroa: You’ve mentioned like, “as far as we know”, or you said something to that effect, is there a history that’s missing for you at this point about where it was spoken?
Jesse Recalma: Yes, namely that really early on, in, in contact, the majority of Pentlatch people had already died off through disease and, and warfare and the, to a point where there’s some areas that, that were had a lot of empty villages. Just from those things, even, even before contact came around because smallpox made its way up this way before European explorers came up. So there’s definitely a lot of things we don’t know. And unfortunately we can’t pull that information back.
Carrie Gillon: So besides the disease and the warfare, what else happened?
Mathew Andreatta: Same thing that happened to most Indigenous communities all over the world, forced assimilation Uh, degradation of how we were made to see ourselves as people and our languages and our cultures and children being murdered for speaking their language in schools. There’s a lot of contributing factors for why this language is now considered extinct by linguists.
And it’s, it’s a complicated history to what Jesse was saying, because there was a lot of geographical movement around the island. People pushing into other territory. People moving from that territory. Adopting different languages too. So I think, yeah, what happened was forced assimilation and having the label slapped on by anthropologists in the 1800s as extinct, I think, was a huge and still is a huge issue because when you have that label, no one’s going to go looking for anything. Right. Because they assume it’s gone.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. So let’s talk about “extinct”. So this is a word that people are starting to move away from and towards “sleeping”. And why, why is that? Why, why is this change happening?
Jesse Recalma: I think, you know, when we, when we look at how do we define “extinct”? Because we know dinosaurs are extinct because I don’t see a velociraptor running by my window, but, you know, can we say Pentlatch is extinct when I just said a Pentlatch word the other day? Cause, there’s a definition of that coming from somewhere that’s not us. Because clearly we’re not extinct. Because that’s often another connotation that comes along with, with that definition of extinctness is that they assume because the language is extinct, the people are as well. But, you know, we definitely can, can show that, that, you know, we have this Pentlatch lineage that we also still are able to use some of these words that our ancestors have used.
Our community specifically was often overlooked linguistically because in old census records they would, they would note that we spoke Chinook because there were so many other people who would, who would often be visiting around that spoke different languages, that they wouldn’t classify us as being belonging to a specific language group. So they just sort of skip over something. Oh, they only speak Chinook. So they, so they, so they don’t have anything left.
Mathew Andreatta: Chinook jargon was a trade language that existed in the area that a lot of, a lot of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people spoke and used aspects of our Indigenous languages, as well as French and other borrowed terms and things like that.
Jesse Recalma: Our uncle Alfred apparently used to call it the the white man’s Indian language as it was used more by traders.
Carrie Gillon: Now that your project is working to wake up Pentlatch so how are you doing that? And why is it important to do that?
Mathew Andreatta: Maybe just to go back and expand a little bit on what Jesse was talking about too, and your question around “extinct” and why that matters to undo that understanding.
Our languages are so intertwined with the world around us and our understandings of our ways of being and relating to the world around us. And they inform each other and go back and forth. And those languages have been in place for thousands of years before contact. You can’t exterminate that. You can’t completely eliminate a way of being. Because like Jesse was saying, we’re still here. We breathe in Pentlatch. We walk around, like we’re published people, you can’t exterminate that. And I think that that is an understanding that it’s hard for a lot of Western academic oriented people. Trouble understanding too, because our language is our culture and our culture is us and that’s living. That’s not something that you can kill. And so to label it as dead is a direct attempt at doing that as well. For us, it’s really important to- hard to reverse the opinions of professionals become facts. Oftentimes. So it’s hard to reverse.
Jesse Recalma: Especially if they’re peer reviewed, by peers who agree. It’s still moving on on this topic too, connected with what Matt was saying. You know, how we can really accept the definition of “extinct” is that, you know, when we first got these materials of vocabularies of Pentlatch, there was a lot of, you know, when we see the words in the vocabulary list, my experience with other languages has shown me that a lot of these words are the same words that a lot of other languages have. And the thing about a Pentlatch as being a Coast Salish dialect, or language as, as linguists correct me to say, is that we share words with other Coast Salish languages. And so, you know, when we have a one word, that’s the exact same word as spoken in another language, you know, I think we have to recognize too. It’s not so much that that language owns that word is that language speaks that word. And there’s a lot of shared words amongst the Coast Salish languages and the Coast Salish sub dialects. Can we like fully label something as being extinct if we’re still having these words popping up elsewhere? It’s just, we, we don’t have the, like we have, we have the pieces that we don’t have the puzzle picture. Kinda, you know, we’re getting a lot more of the, of that puzzle picture now with working through a lot of our documents that, that we got from, from the APS. And then some that Matt was able to get from, from the University of Washington. These, all these different little puzzle pieces that are sort of helping us put things back together.
Carrie Gillon: So what are these documents that you’re using?
Jesse Recalma: We’ve found that the only primary resources that we have of Pentlatch come from the early work of Franz Boas and then some other, not nearly as extensive work done by Homer Barnett in Barnett’s field notes. So Homer Burnett going around different Coast Salish communities in the late twenties, early thirties to write his book, the Coast Salish of British Columbia. One of his interviewees was supposed to be Joe Nim Nim, but Joe Nim Nim, wouldn’t talk to him. Joe Nim Nim being a, a Pentlatch Chief in and around Comox Joe Nim Nim wouldn’t talk to him, but his wife would, so she would share some of what she knows and some of the stuff, some of the stuff what was, was more so on the Pentlatch, but as well, there was a heavy influence of the, Éy7á7juuthem or the, the island Comox language, which she, she had spoke as originally, but Boaz himself was able to work with people in the 1890s in the Comox Valley where the Pentlatch language speakers.
And then if Matt wants to talk a bit about the stuff that he, he dug up.
Mathew Andreatta: Yeah. You know, my, my journey here was a little bit serendipitous with my Uncle Mike’s and our Chief Recalma. In my first year of university, I did a year-long research project at UBC in the Department of First Nations and Indigenous Studies program as it was called at the time. And I did a full year long projects on Pentlatch people.
When I was growing up, I was a little bit too proud, maybe. I started going around telling everyone that I’m Indigenous and First Nations, and then people started asking more questions. So I asked my mom more questions and she told me when I was really young, that “we’re Pentlatch.” I never really knew what that meant entirely. Neither did anyone else when I told them.
So come my first year of university, I did this research project and what I found was all this label of “extinct” everything. It was really disheartening and hard to encounter. Because again to kind of chime on that note again, you have to understand why that claim is made and that’s to extinguish any claim that we have of existence basically. To reject that is of the utmost importance for our projects. But in that first year, my research skills were pretty limited. So I didn’t really find too much other than that.
Until my final year, when I was in a First Nations and endangered languages course. This was around the same time as uncle Mike started having his dream and talking with people about revitalizing this language. Though, I did a semester project in that course, you can choose any language you wanted, just research it and be in relation with it basically was the goal of that project. So I finally revisited, I chose to revisit Pentlatch and with new research skills and a little bit more experience. And doing that led me to find in the archives at the University of Washington in Seattle, a linguist named Dale M. Kinkade works closely with Boas’s materials. Found on their website in their archives so that they had a pretty decent amount of Pentlatch materials. But it was kind of, it was pretty unclear. Of course. So another cousin of ours came with me to Seattle and they brought out just these very large boxes that were just full of our language. And I never saw that coming. It was incredibly humbling and emotional to sit there and in the basement of some building in Seattle to find a piece of ourselves to start getting into relation with it again.
So then I knew that we had to bring it back. We don’t have it all still, but we had to pay out of pocket. And after that, I knew that I had to talk to Uncle Mike and we had to decide what to do with these documents and what can be done. And that’s when I work, our work calls started. It was off of those- I think we brought back around 300 to 400 pages or so of Dale Kinkade’s work. And yeah, that was all his, his studies on Boas, his documentations on the language. And our language was one of the first ones that he had encountered when he came here too. So
Carrie Gillon: he was one of my, he was actually my very first linguistics professor.
Megan Figueroa: Oh!
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Yeah.
Megan Figueroa: I’m just like getting generations wrong because I thought that he would have not been still teaching at that point, but
Carrie Gillon: he was close to retirement by the time.
Yeah. Yeah, no, that’s a, that’s an amazing story. And I’m glad that you were able to get most of the materials and I hope you get all of the materials and I’m sorry that you had to pay for it because that not fair.
Megan Figueroa: It makes me think of how museums and other places are places of violence and people do not white people do not understand that in the same way. That’s horrifying that you had to pay for it.
Mathew Andreatta: Funny situation. “Wear these gloves! Don’t cough! Don’t touch anything!”
Megan Figueroa: Yeah,
Mathew Andreatta: I mostly wanted to share that, because again. The language woke up by itself. It started calling to our Chief and our Uncle Mike. And now here we are with it.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Chief Michael, what is your relationship with the language? Did your parents speak it at all?
Chief Michael Recalma: Did not. My great-uncle did as Jesse has referred to, and my brother remembers more about the language than I do, because he spent a lot of time with Uncle Alfred for that. That’s, you know, my tie to it. But I heard from him, which was not very much.
Carrie Gillon: Okay. Yeah. So what else are you doing on this project to wake Pentlatch up?
Mathew Andreatta: I know that one of our questions is what languages are related to Pentlatch. So maybe this could be good comparison work and stuff.
Jesse Recalma: Yeah. So in terms of obtaining resources we, we definitely had a much more positive experience with Brian Carpenter at the, at the American Philosophical Association. Or sorry Society in Philadelphia. So when I first got, got copies of, of the Boas papers, the documents, I would look through that, just like look through it. Like I was definitely did not have the linguistic skills that I have now, but I did have some familiarity with language and Coast Salish languages, just from my general experience. And I definitely noticed a lot of words that were very similar to words that I did know, and, and sort of my intuition was sort of suggesting that like, okay so like, if so many of these Coast Salish languages are so similar in different ways, maybe I should look at our linguistic neighbors, namely the Comox languages.
Éy7á7juuthem and ʔayajuθəm, I had some knowledge of ʔayajuθəm the Mainland Comox language. At that point, I didn’t know where to start to look up for any, anything relating to Sechelt. But I’d also did have some familiarity with Hul̓q̓umín̓um̓ as well, which are sort of all, all around and, and the in the Coast Salish language family. Some of the stuff that I’ve found that I found too, it was some work done by Boas that had included a comparative language graph that looked at- there was there’s a, quite a number of, of Salish languages that had lək̓ʷəŋən, the Nanaimo dialect of Hul̓q̓umín̓um̓, Sechelt, Squamish, Pentlatch, Comox, Bella Coola and a couple of the Interior Salish languages.
And so I would look at like the English words that, that were like on the, on the left hand column and then go across the board and see which words were similar to the Pentlatch word in the Pentlatch column, and then I’d go and I’d see if I could find the Hul̓q̓umín̓um̓ word in, in the contemporary Hul̓q̓umín̓um̓ dictionary to see if there was still some similarity there. And then that would kind of give me an idea of how to more accurately pronounce the word that Boas had written down.
And it’s definitely been really, really exciting journey to, to piece together everything that we’ve had. And try to do our best to decode Boas’s orthography, because he was doing everything at such an early point in time in his career, and he was doing a thing things at a point in time where there was no real standard orthography for Indigenous languages on the, on the West Coast. And so he had his really bizarre ways of interpreting certain sounds that I’ve got to a point where I go, “I’m going to have to interpret what he’s reading and hope for a kind of hope for the best.” if I, if can’t find like a similar word in another language.”
My work has been largely comparative in terms of finding the similarities between Pentlatch words and, and, and other words. And for the most part, I’d say it has been fairly successful.
Mathew Andreatta: And our community was able also through this work to hire Su and Sarah Kell, very talented linguists that we’re so happy to have helping us with this language and helping us understand it and looking at all these different pieces of the puzzle like Jesse was saying to you, and being able to see where they might be able to fit.
But Su might be able to speak a little bit more to y our question as well.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah. I was just going to bring her in.
Su Urbanczyk: Yeah. So, I mean, what Jessie’s been doing has basically been doing this comparative work, the material that Dale Kinkade did as well was he tried to have a representation of what Boas had, and then he looked up all of the other, like cognates in the neighboring languages. So trying to to check things that way.
So, but basically what we’re trying to do is, you know, having as accurate representation of how Boas transcribed it, using a couple of different systems, depending on where, if it’s the, you know, the English Pentlatch or the Pentlatch German, right. So he used slightly different systems. So we’re trying to have accurate representation of that and then map that to a close phonetic transcription, which is like exactly how he heard it. So how he heard it with his German ears, where he hadn’t really written any other Indigenous languages. And then, and then trying to figure out what through the comparative work, oh, did he, is that a pop sound? It is in ITU some, so likely is in, in Pentlatch. So getting the pronunciation that way.
And then right now we’re excited about having a interim orthography that we’re going to introduce soon. And then by then, we’ll be able to figure out what the pronunciation rules are, and things like that. So and then, and this is all part of a larger grant. There’s a First Peoples’ Cultural Council has language revitalization and planning projects. So I’ve been able to jump on board with that funding. And I’m very grateful for this opportunity.
Mostly it’s just kind of like, “yeah, Jesse that’s right,” because he’s really figured out a lot.
Mathew Andreatta: Yeah. I think there’s, there’s something else that Jesse had said previously too: you almost have to learn five other languages to start to learn this one. And that’s just, that’s just an unfortunate reality that he’s been running into and really working hard through to make it the case that our community members don’t have to do that and making it accessible for them. Because that that’s really a major priority for, for our projects, and for the work that we’re doing, is transmitting this language and communicating it to our community and allowing them to also have these pieces, to look at them and try to understand them and where they fit within them and where those pieces fit inside of them too.
So another major part of our work is community engagement and again, like Su Su mentioned the orthography. There’s a lot of decisions made in those conversations that were meant to prioritize our committee members and the accessibility to the language as well that were really important for us.
Because again, if we’re going to undo those understandings, it has to be as non-intimidating and as approachable as it can be for everyone, because we all have different relationships with different languages too, because not everyone is a Pentlatch descendant in Qualicum. It seems like there’s an artful science that goes into the reconstruction work because we don’t actually know what this language sounded like as well. And that’s kind of something that I’ve been witnessing Jesse take part in is a discerning creative scientific approach that I’ve, I’ve found really interesting so far.
Megan Figueroa: Jessie, are you learning, working with German too, to kind of feel like how he may have heard things or how he may have perceived things.
Jesse Recalma: One of the things I did last year was- okay. So Boas in his, in his Pentlatch materials, we have two sets of almost like separate works in there. He has an English to Pentlatch vocabulary list. And then he also has his German to Pentlatch vocabulary list. They both have different -the German Pentlatch has more words on it than the English Pentlatch one. So one of my tasks that I, that I jumped onto was to translate the German to Pentlatch each one. Because when you go through the, the German word list, he has different interpreted the translations differently than he is interpreted himself. So. I definitely had to work with quite a bit of German to, to start to interpret that, that whole word list, that at some point he was calling like herons, cranes, cougars are being referred to as panthers. And, and, and there’s just like, there’s been a number of things that, that we would have a word for it. We have a word for it in English now, but, but didn’t have like a German equivalent. I believe German’s famous for making up words. In my philosophy studies, I read a lot of German philosophers that made up their own words and I figured if they can, so, so can we.
Yeah, definitely German is one of the languages that I had to work a lot with to, to understand Boas’s work because his ears hear things differently than, than ours, but, but also the way he is, the way his ears would hear some sounds made it easier than if an English linguist would be working with this language that didn’t have proper, proper knowledge of all the different sounds.
But see, when I compare say the work of George Dawson did a comparative word list of Comox and Nanaimo, and I forget which other language. The, the way that the, that, that he would write down his interpretations was nowhere near as accurate as Boas’s at similar points in time. So Boas’s work is definitely not perfect, but it’s definitely something still workable. There’s less guesswork, but still lots of guesswork.
Carrie Gillon: So how can people outside of the community support the Pentlatch revitalization efforts?
Jesse Recalma: I think, I think that can be a tough question. Like, like, like, especially when we’re in such early stages of our, of our language work, I don’t know if Uncle Mike’s got some thoughts on that?
Chief Michael Recalma: I don’t know how they could really be- Jesse’s quite right. Once we get further into this, then the support could come from reading materials, et cetera. But up until then- When I say we, I mean, Jesse and Matt are so early in this work that it’s really hard to to say how people can support us. When the time comes for stories being written in language., It’ll be different then. That’s not there yet.
Megan Figueroa: I wonder if any linguists that happened to have materials for certain, like. Who knows! You send it along
Jesse Recalma: that that, that, or maybe University of Washington could sort of help us get those materials quicker or, or I think the the APS is sorta really done the most they could, at this point. They’ve been more than helpful with, with the materials they provided for us that can help.
Carrie Gillon: Well, I’m pretty sure, at least one of our supporters is a, at the University of Washington. So maybe if they’re listening.
Is there anything else you would like to let our listener, let our listeners know about this project or about Pentlatch or anything
Megan Figueroa: or where we can buy your woodcarvings and art?
Mathew Andreatta: I think our, our community’s situation is incredibly interesting and difficult, but incredibly important. I think for all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous to consider and look at and really interrogate ourselves about like, why is the situation here? Why do we have to do these things to be able to relate to ourselves and each other and understand ourselves as Indigenous people and, but comes with that understanding. That’s one of the beginnings of reconciliation. And that’s when people would then be able to offer assistance from the outside, in a, in a better way, because if people don’t understand that and the reasonings for our language not being with us anymore, what they have to offer this type of work, and these conversations will be very limited as well.
In the last year or so Canadians, and the whole world in general, have been learning more in depth about the atrocities that happened here and continue to happen here in order for us not to have this language anymore. Understanding that, along with this work, I think- sorry, I’m rambling now. It’s emotional. It’s hard to talk about. And I’ve found even speaking in front of community, every single time I do for this project, I get choked up as well. But in this year where again, people have been seen these atrocities laid bare. They need to look at this project and understand that this is the same thing. This is, this is a direct product of, of those atrocities. If you’re going to walk around wearing an orange shirt or touting yourself as an ally, then you need to also understand this project and the impacts that it has on us and our community as well.
Carrie Gillon: So for people who are not Canadians, they might not know what the orange shirt is. Can someone explain that?
Mathew Andreatta: Residential schools. They had them in the States as well. But I think there were more called boarding schools.
Jesse Recalma: And industrial schools.
Mathew Andreatta: They’re educational establishments that were set up by the government and run by the churches “to kill the Indian, to save the man.” Basically it was, they were meant to eliminate our culture, our children, and any sort of transference of traditional knowledge, language, practice, ceremony, and traditional ways of being for extinction. And again, that’s why that label is on our language, to this day. It’s to eliminate our claim to territory as well.
In Canada, there was a story- you can look up the orange, orange shirts, and that will tell you the story better than I can.
Jesse Recalma: There was a young girl going to Residential school and she was wearing for the first, she, she wore her orange shirt as she was going to Residential school that she had just got, she has got her shirt and when she was there, they made her strip down and they took away all their clothes. And then they made her wear a uniform. Her name is Philip Phyllis Webstad. She has, she’d always sort of hoped that, that like, you know, when she would leave, she she’d get her orange shirt back, but she never got it back. And so she, she shared this story of hers at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in, in Vancouver. And so there started to be calls for people to on, on sort of September 30th to wear orange shirts in sort of recognition of the work that, or of that, that experience she had. And so since then, it’s sort of been the happening to the people would wear their orange shirts on September 30th in memory of that.
So she’s, she’s still alive. She’s still around and she’s gained a lot of support from, from that so far. And so that’s why on September 30th, we, we, we wear our orange shirts.
Carrie Gillon: Thank you. Yeah, I know it’s a lot to unpack, but you know, most of our listeners are in the States and we also have listeners elsewhere sorts, so they wouldn’t necessarily have this background.
Any other last words for our listeners before we let you go?
Jesse Recalma: I just want to say that Matt is- a, sorry, this is my cat there. Matt has an incredibly unique take on, on a Coast Salish art, but he has yet to start himself an Instagram art page yet, but I’m hoping that after we have our art show coming up, that he will start to advertise more of his art and put himself out there a bit. Cause he’s definitely got a, a unique style. And when he does, you definitely have to look up the Matt Andreatta art page when it, when it comes out.
Carrie Gillon: Oh, yeah.
Jesse Recalma: Under construction.
Carrie Gillon: As soon as we have that, we’ll put it up.
Megan Figueroa: We’ll share it too.
Mathew Andreatta: Jesse he’s already got one. So you can put that one up now.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Thank you for sharing your stories and for sharing your art. And-
Carrie Gillon: yeah, I know it’s a it’s anything. Anytime we talk about language, it always ends up being emotional for a variety of reasons that, you know, cause it’s just so much trauma around it and I’m grateful that you were willing to share this project with us. So I think it’s really important. People don’t necessarily understand reclamation language reclamation and, or, or understand why yeah using the word extinct is bad. And so I think this was a really helpful conversation, so thank you very much for coming.
We always leave our listeners with one final message. Don’t be an asshole.
Megan Figueroa: Don’t be an asshole.
Carrie Gillon: all right. So this month we would like to think Christine Gu for becoming a patron.
Megan Figueroa: Thank you so much.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah.
Megan Figueroa: I love our patrons.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah, me too. She is our 100th patron.
Megan Figueroa: That’s cool.
Carrie Gillon: Yes,
Megan Figueroa: that’s awesome. We just had our 100th episode and now we have a 100th patron. That’s good.
Carrie Gillon: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.
And yeah. So if you want to become a patron, you can go to http://www.patreon.com/vocalfriespod, and we have stickers and we have bonus episodes and we have mugs.
Megan Figueroa: Yeah, bonus episodes are fun.
Carrie Gillon: Yes, they are very salty.
Megan Figueroa: So lots and lots of backlog. Also relevant.
Carrie Gillon: That’s true. Let me see how many we have. It’s a-
Megan Figueroa: it’s a lot.
Carrie Gillon: We have 52 about to have 53 bonus episodes. So yeah, it’s a lot to listen to.
Megan Figueroa: It’s awesome.
The Vocal Fries Podcast is produced by me, Carrie Gillon for Halftone Audio, music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @vocalfries.
You can email us at vocalfriespod AT gmail.Com and our website is vocalfriespod.com