Floyd Dick works as the ‎Secwepemctsin language and cultural teacher with School District 27 at Nesika, Mountview and Marie Sharpe elementary schools in Williams Lake. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Black Press Media)

Floyd Dick works as the ‎Secwepemctsin language and cultural teacher with School District 27 at Nesika, Mountview and Marie Sharpe elementary schools in Williams Lake. (Rebecca Dyok photo - Black Press Media)

Our HOMETOWN: Secwepemctsin teacher aspires to keep Indigenous languages alive

National Indigenous Languages Day held March 31

?Abenanes, Tân’si, Wéytk, Way’ and Dahooja!

Tsilhqot’in, Cree, Secwepemctsin, Nsyilxcən and Carrier is one of the many five languages Floyd Dick uses to greet his students with a friendly hello or greeting at the beginning of each lesson.

The Secwepemc language and cultural teacher continues to provide open learning lessons for Nesika, Mountview and Marie Sharpe elementary schools after joining School District 27 as an instructor in December 2019.

“We’re connected to many things just like the Coastal art how it shows an eagle that has a bear, wolf and beaver inside it,” he said.

“We’re not just one thing.”

Language has always been important to Dick, who grew up in Esk’et (Alkali Lake) south of Williams Lake.

Read More: Canada’s first Indigenous language degree to be offered at UBC Okanagan

He was immersed in the language of his ancestors through his grandparents who only spoke Secwepemctsin—the language of the Secwepemc.

When his parents of the Secwepemc Nation returned after completing treatment for alcoholism, Dick would teach what he had learned from his grandparents to them.

“It seems like my parents’ age group is still suffering from the implications of residential school in terms of being ashamed of the language or being too far gone with it that they don’t want to start,” he said.

Dick completed his grade 11 and 12 studies at Columneetza in Williams Lake, where Cecilia DeRose, a survivor of St. Joseph’s Mission, he said, was his language teacher.

After graduating in 1989, Dick moved to the Lower Mainland after marrying his first spouse from the Lil’wat Nation near Pemberton, and worked producing language curriculum.

Because the Lower St̓át̓imcets dialect is similar to Secwepemctsin he said it was relatively easy to pronounce the words and read to the point where he could become engaged in another Indigenous language.

Over the years, Dick was also exposed to the Cree language as he drummed at powwows in B.C., Alberta and Washington.

Read More: Exploring First Nation languages in B.C.

He worked with In-SHUCK-ch Services Society, researching pre-treaty content, before returning to Williams Lake where he would juggle work and post-secondary studies.

“That seemed to take more than six years,” he said of finally receiving his bachelor’s degree, teaching certification and language proficiency from Simon Fraser University.

Dick said it is tough to see young First Nations people who are lost due to intergenerational trauma.

He said he fought hard against others who told him he did not belong and eventually found himself letting go of their suggestions and opinions, which he said did not matter anymore because he was able to create a view of himself that would be the only one he would hold himself to.

Through meditation, he said he was also able to release any negative thoughts.

Dick’s Indigenous name Setsinmes Re Iswell, which means Singing Loon, was gifted to him by the universe after several days of fasting in which he had received a vision.

“The trees had bent over, and sticks fell out, and when the sticks landed on the ground, they all had different colours on them to represent man and nature,” he said.

“Rainbow-coloured children picked up the sticks and followed each other as they were tapping them.”

Read More: Film about Esk’etemc First Nation premieres June 21 in Williams Lake

On May 8, 2017, Dick was among many people participating in a community celebration at Esk’et to mark the Esk’etemc First Nation having declared title and rights over its traditional territory and lands.

He said it was that very day he shared the vision, which would be brought to reality by youth and adults picking up a staff and dancing with it.

“I think that’s what the vision was telling me —to bring back our whole customs that we used to do,” he said.

Since April 2020, Dick has publicly shared some of his teachings through his educational Facebook page Secwepemctsin Learning for My SD27 schools.

In his latest video “Le cwucwten’s Le q7es teqelmucw” (The ways of the old ones), he explained it is one part of three separate stories from his Xpe7e-lu7 (late grandfather) Mitchel Dick who was a medicine man and swam in the creek through the waters where he acquired his songs from their ancestors honouring all women, especially ones with water names.

“That sounds pretty good,” Dick said of language revitalization.

“I don’t want to turn anyone away at all from learning my language because it’s dying as it is.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenous

Just Posted

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Free boxes of fresh produce are currently being provided in Quesnel by the Canadian Mental Health Association of Northern BC thanks to a donation from West Fraser Mills. (File photo)
Fresh produce available for those in need in Quesnel

Donation allows Canadian Mental Health Association to provide free fruits and veggies

Elizabeth Pete is a survivor of St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
WATCH: Kamloops bound convoy greeted by Canim Lake Band along Highway 97

Well over two dozen members of the Tsq’escenemc people (Canim Lake Band) showed up

Five rehabilitated grizzly bears were released this month into the Bella Coola area. The Northern Lights Wildlife Society will also be delivering 36 black bears to areas across the province where they were previously found. “They’re ready to go and they’re already trying to get out,” says Angelika Langen. “We feel good when we can make that possible and they don’t have to stay behind fences for the rest of their lives.” (Northern Lights Wildlife Society Facebook photo)
At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

Most Read