SQUAMISH NATION LANGUAGE SERVICES IN SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 44 (NORTH VANCOUVER) SCHOOLS

Friday, September 6, 2019

RE: SQUAMISH NATION LANGUAGE SERVICES IN SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 44 (NORTH VANCOUVER) SCHOOLS

Dear Squamish Nation members,

This letter is to update you on changes to Nation funded services in the North Vancouver School District with the Squamish Language.

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim (language) is central to our identity as Squamish People. We are proud to have made significant progress in recent years to increase the availability of opportunities for our people to learn their language — including through language programs in several North Vancouver School District public schools, the post-secondary Language Certificate and Diploma programs, and, most recently, the introduction of the Language Nest pilot program, and also our move towards immersion at our Littlest Ones School. Through these programs, more Squamish Nation members than ever have been becoming speakers of our language.

Our post-secondary Language Certificate program is thriving, families are excited about the Language Nest pilot program launch at the Littlest Ones School, and we have additional adult language learners enrolled in the Squamish Language Diploma program. Our language program offerings in the public schools have been well-received by students and parents alike.

However, for this year there are changes in the language programming being offered in the North Vancouver School District. The time has come to refine the services and ensure the success of public-school language programming district wide. Since the beginning of these services over the last number of decades, they have been largely funded by the Squamish Nation’s own source revenue.

Our goal is to put Nation resources into the development of more language speakers who can converse in the language and help us produce even more speakers and expand services through all ages. We also need to continue to invest in supporting the development of adult language learners so we increase the number of potential language instructors.

We have now reached a place where we need to take a step back and invest the necessary time and resources to better enhance our language programming with capacity development, teacher and proficiency development, and program planning. After careful consideration of our available options, we have made the decision to reallocate language resources at this time to support our medium and long-term objectives
to successfully revitalize our Squamish language.

2019/2020 Language Programming in SD No. 44:

For the 2019/2020 school year, the Squamish Nation will be offering:

  • a junior and senior language program at Carson Graham Secondary
  • a once-weekly language program at Eslha7an for students registered at Mountainside,
  • and a grades 5-7 program at Norgate Elementary.

If a Squamish Nation elementary or secondary student does not attend a school where language programming is offered, but wishes to do so, their parent/guardian can go to the student’s home school principal and request a transfer. If space is available in their grade, the transfer may be completed as requested.

This includes St. Edmonds Elementary School due to teacher certification requirements.

Next Steps:

We are actively engaged in discussions with the North Vancouver School District to develop “a plan that provides for the inclusion of Squamish Nation language, culture and history in the curriculum and courses offered in the schools located in School District No. 44,” per our Protocol Agreement for Communication and Collaboration with the NVSD.

We are also in discussion with the North Vancouver School District to offer more activity-based programs for elementary school students that would involve language as a key component of the programming, including at the elementary schools that no longer have regularly-scheduled language services.

There are plans in place to establish a working group—comprised of SD No. 44 teachers, students, Squamish Nation staff, and community members—for discussions around creating a Squamish Nation language and culture-focused program in the NVSD.

Internally, we are working diligently to build the capacity and proficiency of Squamish language speakers in our community so we can create more highly proficient and fluent teachers, instructors, and mentors to help us grow our language services that create highly proficient language speakers.

The Squamish Nation recently created a dedicated department for Language & Cultural Affairs. The goal of the department is to have a dedicated team working on language and culture throughout the Squamish Nation and we are now building out that team to increase capacity, staffing, more funding, and expanded resources. Under the leadership of the new Director, Samaya Jardey, the Language & Cultural Affairs Department will work in conjunction with the Education Department to advance the growth of the Squamish Language, including in the public school system.

At the Littlest Ones School, we are launching our Language Nest pilot program this month. This is a program targeted at pre-Kindergarten children and their parents to become proficient and fluent speakers. and are excited to continue developing the necessary capacity and resources to expand the program in the future. We are also continuing to work towards Little Ones School becoming a Squamish Language immersion school, but this requires the development of more proficient and trained teachers and expanding the skills and abilities of our existing teachers.

The Squamish Nation is challenged with having a limited number of language teachers in our community who are highly proficient in our language to meet the huge need our community has for our language. We understand the change in service may be challenging and upsetting for parents who want to see their children connected to opportunities to learn our language and culture. We strongly believe in supporting the strengthening of our language and culture. However, the time had
come to make a choice between the quantity and quality of language programming we are able to offer, and strategically how we grow our services to create the best results. Our intention is to prioritize our language revitalization activities in a way to create the best results for our community and future generations.

We look forward to continuing to share updates about the programs under development in the North Vancouver School District, as well as the exciting work that is underway at our Littlest Ones School.

Chet kw’enmantúmiwit ta s7eḵw’ítel-chet.

If you have any questions, please contact Paul Wick, Director of Education, Employment & Training at paul_wick@squamish.net or 604-980-4553.

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