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Blog: Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Learning the Halq’eméylem Language

W.A. Fraser Middle School, in partnership with the Aboriginal Education department, will be offering Halq’eméylem language courses in September for grades 6, 7 and 8. Halq’eméylem, the Indigenous language of the local Stó:lō people, is a Ministry of Education accredited course and recognized as fulfilling the language learning requirements in BC Schools. Most BC and many Canadian Universities recognize the Halq'eméylem program. As part of the local education agreement with the Sumas First Nation, Halq’eméylem will be offered at Upper Sumas Elementary, WA Fraser Middle, and Yale Secondary. Students can continue their studies at the University of the Fraser Valley as well.

But most importantly, this local Indigenous language is at the heart of the culture of the Sumas people. The language, the culture, and the land are closely interconnected. The language was almost lost in the residential school era with just one fluent speaker left. We know that revitalizing Indigenous languages is also connected to supporting healthy communities. Indigenous communities that have language revitalization are also intimately connected to their culture, and there are direct links to improved health in the community: greater attendance at school, increased school completion rates, lower rates of health problems including diabetes, and even lower rates of youth suicide. We are proud of the perseverance and hard work or aboriginal students at WA Fraser who are continuing to work on language revitalization in their community.

The Aboriginal Education Department also offers Halq’e méylem at Matsqui Elementary, Clayburn Middle, and Robert Bateman Secondary as a cultural offering and we look forward to expanding the number of accredited courses in future.

DARLENE MACDONALD
District Principal, Aboriginal Education