Completing Connections

Contribution by Shayla Allison

Hello, my name is nx̌əx̌sitatkʷ, Shayla Allison, and I come from the Similkameen Valley and Vernon. Today I live on the Penticton Reservation. I have two daughters and one grandson.

When I was a little girl I grew up in the Similkameen Valley with my parents and very close to my qáqnaʔ; my grandmother’s home. I believed and still believe as a little girl I was her heart and she was mine! My qáqnaʔ taught me “sqilxʷcaw̓t” which is our culture and our beliefs. qaqnaʔ knew the nk̓yilxcn language and the sqilx̓ʷ life. She knew our land, the roots, the berries, the medicines, she knew sewing and beading and tanning hides and she knew our stories; the captikʷɬ. My qáqnaʔ gave me all that she could until she left this world and when she did I was lost. I left home soon after and I wandered without a destination until I became pregnant in 1999. I remember, like yesterday the worry, I did not worry about being a mother I worried about the growing potential and possibility that one day, I would be a qáqnaʔ! My qáqnaʔ she knew everything, what did I know?.

My language journey began and soon after I found myself at the En’owkin Center, a first nation post-secondary institution. The founder Jeanette Armstrong became my mentor and specifically on a cultural outing when she said, “one day someone will ask you who are you and where is your land?” I began to have perspective and purpose. I vividly remember being next to the Kettle River on our traditional territory, looking up at the tall birch trees and hearing the river as she reminded our class of our responsibilities to the language and to the land. “one day your status card will not be enough if you cannot say who you are and the name of this land in our language you will be assimilated” From that moment I knew I needed my language and I have been learning since.

I have been learning from whoever and wherever I can. I continued for a few years at the En̓owkin and then discovered an intensive immersion program offered by Paul Creek. I began nsəl̓xcin 1 in Omak, Washington. After this 4-week full-time session, I followed more of these immersion intensives. They were offered all over from the Similkameen Valley to Inchelium. I found a place to camp out and learned with others that were doing just the same. This curriculum was developed with a fluent speaker, a curriculum developer, a learner, and a dream. I believe this began with Larae Wiley, her husband Chris Parkins, and a fluent speaker sʔamtic̓á Sarah Peterson. This worked for me, a system that had leveled structures of learning. sʔamtic̓a, is my qaqnaʔ sister̓s daughter, sʔamtic̓a is a beautiful and significant woman to me and to many others learners of nk̓yilxcən. You are not learning nk̓yilxcən if you haven’t heard sʔamitic̓a’s lovely voice singing!

My path has just continued like this with language, family, and culture being at the center. I am not fluent, I keep learning and I keep asking questions. I have those that I talk to, and those I stumble with, and those that help me endlessly. Cree Whelshula, Arnie Baptiste, Levi Bent, Michele Johnson are just to name a few. I cannot see the end of learning. I now have a grandson and he is almost a year old and I know a little bit more than I did 21 years ago! My learning is far from over and I plan to keep learning until the day I leave this world. When I do I leave this world I do not plan to see any pearly gates but I will see my beautiful qaqn̓aʔ and I will hear her and everything talking “Indian” and most importantly I will understand! Lmlm̓t inca iskwistc nx̌əx̌sitatkʷ, way̓ kn wy̓way̓.

Language Assessment

Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

This article is a follow-up from the NLCC Webinar titled “Indigenous Language Assessment for Early Childhood & Beyond.”

I have uploaded a video of a former immersion student of mine. Please note that this video was candid and not recorded for the intention of language assessment. If my intention was to assess his language, I would have prompted him to speak more in the language.

As stated in the webinar, children will naturally want to speak more English or respond with action/gesture.

A video player link.

Dialogue

  1. Teacher: swit misxʷʔít iʔ pnánasc? miƛ̓nt ixíʔ t ant̓əxʷt̓əxʷłaqs. (who has the most bananas? color it with your crayon)
  2. Student: That guy *points to character with less bananas*
  3. Teacher: k̓ʷinx iʔ pnánas? (how many bananas?)
  4. Student: naqs, ʔasíl (one, two)
  5. Teacher: k̓ʷinx axáʔ iʔ pnánasc? (how many is this one’s bananas?)
  6. Student: naqs, ʔasíl, kaʔłís (one, two, three)
  7. Teacher: swit əkłmisxʷʔít? (who has the most?)
  8. Student: *Starts coloring character that has the most bananas*

Here is how I could assess this student’s language. I am assessing his language abilities in general, and not assessing specific vocabulary or phrases.

Expressive

  • Counts to three in Salish to talk about how many bananas each character had.

Receptive

  • Understands following vocabulary: swit (who), misxʷʔít (most), miƛ̓nt (color), nt̓əxʷt̓əxʷłaqs (crayon) k̓ʷinx (how many), axáʔ (this one).
  • Responds to speech of teacher appropriately by counting and coloring.
  • Comprehended a 1 step instruction based off of text content on a coloring page.

Conversation Engagement

  • Stayed in a conversation of 7 exchanges.
  • Stayed on topic.
  • Uses acceptable social rules.
  • Shares attention of the page with teacher in the topic at hand.

Other observations

  • Demonstrated ability to one to one correspondence count to three (could be more, but the problem was limited to 3).
  • Understands the concept of quantity and more than.
  • Demonstrates fine motor skills with correct three finger grip on marker.

Notes

  • This was the first time the student saw the coloring page and was asked to follow those directions. The vocabulary was not pre-taught in any lessons and the vocabulary he understood and used was words he has picked up already.

Just based on my memory, I would say this child, in the 3-5 age range, would be classified as a higher intermediate to the low-advanced speaker of the Okanagan language for his age. Other indicators are not as easily measurable, such as the ease at which he responds. You can tell that there is no lag in his comprehension of what is being said to him. Although I did not keep an inventory of his vocabulary, I believe this video does provide evidence of where I believe he was at. It would be difficult for a child with a low level of vocabulary (both receptive and expressive) to interact in a new situation like that the way that he did.