Squamish for Dummies: Cool new Squamish-English dictionary

So, have you picked up your copy of the Skwxwu7mesh Snichim-Xweliten Snichim Skexwts yet?

In case you’re not fluent, that translates as Squamish-English Dictionary.   The book, containing about 8,000 words in the Squamish language spoken by B.C.’s Aboriginal Squamish peoples, has just been completed by a team of elders, linguists and researchers after 18 years of work.

The challenges facing the team were enormous.

First of all, Squamish is an oral language, which didn’t even have a written equivalent until one was adopted in the 1980s.  Not to mention that there are only about 10 people on the planet who are actually fluent in Squamish – mostly elders living in the Lower Mainland and B.C.

Squamish is one of an amazing diversity of 32 languages and 59 dialects spoken in B.C. before the arrival of Europeans, according to a great article on the subject in the Vancouver Sun.  More specifically, Squamish is one of 10 languages in the Coast Salish branch of the Salish language family. There were once 23 Salish languages in total.

The Squamish language, like many of B.C.’s Aboriginal languages, suffered a near fatal hit in the last century as a result of the residential school system.  For decades, young Squamish students were forcibly sent away to residential schools, where they were strictly forbidden from speaking their own language.  Even today, many elders are reluctant to speak the traditional language owing to this legacy of abuse.

So, interested in learning a little Squamish?  Here are a few words and their translations, with links to a great website where you can hear the words pronounced:

Now, onto the real mystery:  What in the world does that number 7 mean in the word Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish)?  Apparently, it’s used to represent a “glottal stop,” a sound that isn’t found in standard English and can’t be represented with the English alphabet (For reference, a glottal stop is similar to the sound in the middle of the expression “oh-oh!”).

You can pick up your own copy of the Squamish-English Dictionary on Amazon.

Any Squamish speakers out there?  Would you mind leaving a comment in Squamish for our readers (with the English translation)?

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13 Responses to Squamish for Dummies: Cool new Squamish-English dictionary

  1. exNewt

    I played 43 man Squamish in college


  2. Amrit

    wow thts a lot of things this is like texting lol I was just wondering because it is such a wonderful day barb is right alot is not in vancouver I feel like parting with you barb I found my true love Amrit Ps your wife to be

  3. Yéwan ha7lh kwis kw’achmixws ti syetsm! Mi chayap t-ta xaws ’website’ tim̓as kwis tal7t kwi kx̱i Sḵwx̱wú7mesh-ulh sníchim!

    [Really good stuff that you’re showing this news! Ya’ll are invite to our website so that you can learn some more Squamish language!]

    • Wow – Thanks for the message in Squamish –

  4. Simba22

    Could someone tell me how to say “Gift of God” in Squamish? My name means that in Greek, but I want to know the Squamish translation.

  5. Deb

    Hosting A National Tournament, I want to great the athletes with a traditional greeting. Tournament starts on Aug. 19th.
    All 191 people are staying on North Shore and playing in North and West Van.
    Please help with a Coast Salish greeting.

    Thank you.

  6. Chelssie

    I would really love a Squamish baby boys name for my new baby. Actually I am squamish from my fathers side, but he did not know any Squamish language but would like to incorporate a squamish name so the boy will feel his roots later on in life… A cute name that is not hard to pronounce that might have a meaning of peace, whale, tree, land, sky,, anything with freedom,strength, nature,,, if anyone might help me to find a cute name, it will probably be a middle name and the first name will be London and Last name will be Baker,,thanks for any ideas! take care all those squamish people in Canada! peace to you, health and hapiness

    • Mark

      not sure of spelling, but I have been told that Orca is “yoh yoh”, Bear is “mayxla” (probably with a & instead of an x), sun is “snookum”, wolf is “Takaya”…

      • Mark

        oops___typo in the translation of bear. “7” should be 7…I also noticed the date on the original post, and I am obviously a little late with this info…

  7. J

    The glottal stop IS found in ‘standard’ English, but not in North American English, and is commonly indicated with an apostrophe (usually to simultaneously signal the dropping of letter). In England, it is commonly used to pronounce words that include a middle syllable involving the consonant ‘t’. In fact, the very word consonant implies an obstruction of the vocal tract. Think, for example, of the slang pronunciation of ‘water’ in England, which would be pronounced wa’er – two separate sounds ‘war’ and ‘uh’. You have to use the glottal stop to pronounce it this way. Even pronounced correctly, the word is composed of two syllables divided by a glottal stop: “war” and “ter”. (In North America, water is pronounced ‘wader’, thus removing the glottal stop.)

    • This is something that we get to see rarely and how much well we put it to good use, the better it would be and the longer it would stay in our hearts too. I hope it will always remain in good hands.

  8. Lani

    I live in Squamish, I love the Squamish lifestyle, culture and adventure. Could someone please tell me if there is a Squamish equivalent or transaction for the following:
    “Let’s do this!” (With courage & bravery)
    Similar to the Sioux Lakota word, “Hoka Hey”.
    Please let me know, and thank you! :-) Lani

  9. Alison

    I would love to find a copy of this book, and can’t. I find the sarcasm in the article a little offensive, I have to say… if the book doesn’t interest you, why write about it?