Sekwaw Matthew – Inspiring Youth
“Education is the future.” Says Sekwaw Matthew, she is four-teen years old, from Adams Lake, and is a member of the Simpc First Nation. She gave a very powerful address which was inspiring to both youth, and those who work with youth. She emphasized the importance of having goals as a youth, and asked youth workers to “Remember what you do, you can support youth and help them to achieve their goals.”
Sekwaw gave a large part of her address in Secwepemctsin, her native language, which she is learning at Chief Atahm School in her community. This was outstanding considering that this language is in danger of being extinct. Less then four percent of the Secwepemc are fluent speakers of the language.
The possibility of losing a language is not specific to this community though, many aboriginal languages are on the verge of disappearing. For example in my own community, Hupacasath, we only have 3 fluent speakers of the Nuuchaanulth language. With the passing of two fluent speakers in the last year, it makes it extremely important that we try to preserve our language through the elders that are still alive, and we need to do it quickly.
Preserving the language is not easy though, and often comes with a little controversy, with such questions as how do we document it? Who should be involved? Will it still be sacred? There is no one answer to any of these questions, but in my personal opinion I believe the way to go is through youth and new media. The youth are the future of any culture, and as such we need to document the culture in a way that they can relate to, and with new media the possibilities are endless. Whether its photos, videos, or audio recordings, they can all be digitalized and preserved forever. But then comes the question of how sacred will our language remain? My belief is a matter of how learners use it; I believe sacredness comes from the heart and that if you treat it in such a way then that’s what it is. But regardless of how it is done it needs to happen, we can not afford to lose our culture, we can keep it alive, and we must keep it alive.
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