About the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ is spoken by the Down River people’s of the Fraser Valley, including the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, Kwikwetlem, Tsawwassen, Katzie, and Kwantlen Nations. In the Kwantlen Nation, the language is taught to Langley students by hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Language Teacher, Fern Gabriel — Sesmelot. Fern learned her language from the Musqueam Nation.

We would also like to recognize the UBC First Nations Endangered Languages Program in collaboration with the Musqueam First Nation. It is through this program that Fern Gabriel, Luke Dandurand, Deanna Miller, and Carlyn Andres learned their language.

Where is hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ spoken

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ is the ‘Down River’ language of the First Peoples in the Fraser Valley. To see where it is spoken, and what people groups speak it, find it on the First People’s Map here.

Lessons in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓

For help reading and pronouncing some sounds in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ you can visit this resource which breaks down the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ by sound! hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet

  • Count to thirteen with Let's Count the Moons

    Thirteen moons counted, for the thirteen moons of the year.

    The numbers spoken here use the suffix -əs to show that they are counting round objects. Take note of the numbers listed below to see the -əs suffix at the end of every number.

    1. nəc̓əs
    2. yəsal̕əs
    3. ɬixʷəs
    4. χəθinəs
    5. ɬq̓acəs
    6. t̕χəməs
    7. t̕ᶿaʔkʷəs
    8. tqeceʔs ~ tqecəs
    9. tu:xʷəs
    10. ʔəpanəs
    11. ʔəpanəs ʔiʔ k̓ʷ nəc̓əs
    12. ʔəpanəs ʔiʔ k̓ʷ yəsal̕əs
    13. ʔəpanəs ʔiʔ k̓ʷ ɬixʷəs
  • Counting to 20

    Learn how to count to 20! Note that numbers above ten “ʔapən” use the word for ten and then another number. For example: 13, is ten and three: “ʔapən ʔiʔ k̓ʷ ɬixʷ” (ten and the three).

    The numbers are listed below, along with direct translations for numbers above ten:

    1. nəc̓aʔ
    2. ʔisel̕ə ~ yəsal̕ə
    3. ɬixʷ
    4. χəʔaθən
    5. ɬq̓ecəs
    6. t̕χəm
    7. t̕ᶿaʔkʷs
    8. tqeceʔ
    9. tu:xʷ
    10. ʔəpan
    11. ʔapən ʔiʔ k̓ʷ nəc̓aʔ (ten and the one)
    12. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ ʔisel̕ə (ten and the two)
    13. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ ɬixʷ (ten and the three)
    14. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ χəʔaθən (ten and the four)
    15. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ ɬq̓ecəs (ten and the five)
    16. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ t̕χəm (ten and the six)
    17. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ t̕ᶿaʔkʷs (ten and the seven)
    18. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ tqeceʔ (ten and the eight)
    19. ʔəpan ʔiʔ k̓ʷ tu:xʷ (ten and the nine)
    20. c̓k̓ʷəx
  • Where are you from?

    Enjoy a brief conversation about “Where are you from?” with Sesmelot and Aboriginal Support Worker, Tara Helps. Below is a translation of what is said. Take note of how place names sound in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ compared to how we say the in English.

    S: Are you well/good?

    T: Ahh . . . I am happy.

    T: And you?

    S: I am okay.

    S: What’s your name?

    T: I’m təməxʷəlwət.

    T: And you?

    S: Sesmelot is my name

    S: Where are you from?

    T: I come from Nicomekl

    T: And you?

    S: I come from Kwantlen

    S: Right here!

    T: Ahh . . . very good!

    T: It’s beautiful

    S: Yes.  This land is beautiful and this river is beautiful

    T: Yes

    S: Yes

    T: See you later

    S: Go well/see you later

  • Washing Hands — While singing Happy Birthday

    t̓ᶿχʷecsəm čxʷ, a sentence meaning “wash your hands”.

    t̕ᶿə́χʷ means to get washed, -cəs is hand, and  čxʷ is you. So, this is a demand, linguistically. It literally means ‘wash hands you’, or ‘you wash your hands’.”

  • Putting on gloves

    t̕ᶿqʷal̕əcaʔ means gloves.
    t̕ᶿaʔqʷ means a container or cover, -l̕əc means hands, -aʔ

    It literally means ‘a covering for one’s hands’.

    To say the action of putting gloves on your own hands:
    ᶿqʷal̕əcaʔəm cən
    t̕ᶿqʷal̕əcaʔ means gloves, -em means an action being taken. Then cən, the noun for “I”.

  • stem te ni? — Beaver

    stem tə niʔ means What is that?

    sqəl̕əw̓ tə niʔ means A beaver there.

    sqəl̕əw̓ means Beaver.

    Something to note: tə may look like it could mean is. tə is actually closer to the word ‘the’, called a determiner. Which means if you were to translate the questions above literally, it would read: What the there?

  • stem te ni? — Goose

    stem tə niʔ = What is there?/What is that?

    ʔeχeʔ = Canadian Goose

  • Gardening in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ — planting sqewθ (potato)

    ctetəm čxʷ = What are you doing?

    pəp̓ən̓əm̓ cən kʷθə sqewθ = I am planting wapato (wild potato).

    Note, in the sentence above, pəp̓ən̓əm̓ is the verb “be planting”, cən is the pronoun “I”, kʷθə is the determiner (like the word “the”) for “not visible”, and sqewθ is the word for wapato or wild potato.

    Historical Context:

    Sesmelot: The Indigenous people of this area were quite sedentary so all that they needed were right in this resourceful and abundant area.  However, families had the rites to some gathering sites as well as fishing sites so it was the səy̓em̓ (respected ones) that told us when it was time to harvest certain plants and berries.

    It was the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie) people who were the keepers of the kʷəmləxʷ (root food).

    Sesmelot is planting sqewθ (potato).  Actually this is the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ word for wapato, the root potato is a native species to the land was traditionally found in the Pitt Meadows area, Katzie territory.

    How can students practice hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ in their own gardens at home?

    Try repeating the sentences over and over as you make the action of planting, pəp̓ən̓əm̓Sesmelot has also been making wooden signs for plants she has been planting using hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ words.

  • Sharing a Postcard in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ — ʔi ʔə čxʷ ʔəw ʔəy̓ ʔal̕

    Sesmelot uses a post-card to reach out to her students during the COVID-19 self-isolation.

    ʔəy̓ sweyəl = Good Day

    ʔi ʔə čxʷ ʔəw ʔəy̓ ʔal̕ = Are you well?

    ʔi cən səl̕səl̕qʷ = I am lonely.

    k̓ʷak̓ʷəcθət čxʷ = Look after yourself.

    təniʔ ʔə k̓ʷ sesmélət = From Sesmelot

    A post card is a great way to learn some basic conversation language tools.

  • Traditional Opening

    A traditional opening spoken by Justin from Kwantlen. Notice some of the same sentences and structures from the Post Card reading, and the “Where are you from?” conversation from above.

    NOTE: ʔa is stated before addressing an audience in the big house, a way of getting the attention of the audience or signalling to the audience that the speaker is talking.

    ʔa səy̓em̓ ʔiʔ tə nə siyey̓ə ʔiʔ tə nə siyal̕əxʷeʔ – Respected ones, friends and elders

    ʔi ʔə ce:p ʔəw ʔeləy̓ ʔal̕ – Are you all well?

    Justin k̓ʷə nə skʷix – Justin is my name.

    təniʔ cən ʔə ƛ̓ q̓ʷa:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ – I am from Kwantlen.

    ʔəm̓i ce:p kʷətxʷiləm tə n̓a təməxʷ – Welcome to the land               

    hiləkʷ tə nə šxʷqʷeləwən k̓ʷəns ʔi k̓ʷəcnalə tə n̓a weyəl – I’m happy to see you all

    hay ce:p q̓ə – Thank you all

  • The Butterfly and the Dragonfly — Narrated storybook

    Watch and listen to the storybook above, narrated by Aboriginal Support Worker, Carlyn Andres from Katzie Nation.

    ƛ̓aməχən = Butterfly
    ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = Dragonfly

    Some other great words to listen for are:

    ckʷim = red
    lələc̓aləs = yellow
    cqʷay = green
    t̕ᶿet̕ᶿəxʷəm̓ = blue

    Verbs to listen for as well:

    ʔəy̓stəxʷ = to like something
    This is comprised of the word for good ʔəy̓ and the suffix -stəxʷ to cause to be. Or more literally: to cause to be good, which means to like something.
    ʔəy̓stəxʷ cən tə ƛ̓aməχən = I like the butterfly.

    k̓ʷecət = to see or look.

    Here is the translation of the storybook below:

    ƛ̓aməχən tə ʔi = This is a butterfly.
    ʔəy̓stəxʷ cən tə həwal̕əm = I like to play
    ʔi ckʷim ʔiʔ lələc̓aləs tə ƛ̓aməχən = The butterfly is red and yellow.
    ʔəy̓stəxʷ cən tə ƛ̓aməχən = I like the butterfly.
    ʔəy̓stəxʷ ʔə čxʷ tə ƛ̓aməχən = Do you like the butterfly?

    ɬəɬəna:yeʔ tə ʔi = This is a dragonfly.
    k̓ʷecət cən tə ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = I see the dragonfly.
    ʔi cqʷay ʔiʔ t̕ᶿet̕ᶿəxʷəm̓ tə ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = The dragonfly is green and blue.
    ʔəy̓stəxʷ cən tə ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = I like the dragonfly.
    ʔəy̓stəxʷ ʔə čxʷ tə ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = Do you like the dragonfly?

    ʔi k̓ʷecət tə ƛ̓aməχən tə ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = The butterfly sees the dragonfly.
    k̓ʷecət ʔə čxʷ tə ɬəɬəna:yeʔ = Do you see the dragonfly?
    k̓ʷecət ʔə čxʷ tə ƛ̓aməχən = Do you see the butterfly?

    Further study:

    • Notice that to make a question, the sound ʔə is added after the verb in the sentence.
    • Try finding the subject and the object in the translated sentence. Then try to find where the subject and the object are in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ sentence.
  • Happy Birthday - a dialogue and song in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓

    Narrator: ƛ̓a tə skʷans ʔə ƛ̓ wali tə n̓a weyəl = “It’s Wally’s birthday today.”

    Melissa: niʔ čxʷ wəɬ k̓win syəl̕anəm tə n̓a weyəl = “How old are you today?” (lit. “How many already years today?)

    Wally: niʔ cən wəɬ c̓k̓ʷəx ʔiʔ k̓ʷ yəsel̕ə = “I’m already twenty-two.” (c̓k̓ʷəx is the number 20)

    Melissa:  wə θəʔit ʔə = “Is that true?”
    niʔ čxʷ təw xʷən ʔəy̓aməx = “You’re still pretty good looking.”

    Wally: hay čxʷ q̓ə… ʔiʔ tə nəwə = “Thanks, and you?”

    Melissa: wə ʔe:nθə ʔə = “Me?” (wə is “me”, ʔe:nθə makes the sentence emphatic, like an exclamation).

    Wally: heʔe, niʔ čxʷ wəɬ k̓ʷənəwi:nxʷ = “Yes. How old are you?”

    Narrator: niʔ nəyəm θə melisə = “Then Melissa laughs…”

    Melissa: nəwə k̓ʷ nəcim̓ = “What’s it to you?”
    qəχ tə nə syəl̕anəm = “Many are my years.”

    Wally: ʔa: . . .  skatəy̓ čxʷ = “Ah, you’re crazy.”
    niʔ čxʷ təw xʷən ʔəy̓aməx ƛ̓eʔ = “You’re still pretty good looking, too!”

    Melissa: hay čxʷ q̓ə… k̓ʷecət čxʷ tən̓ kiks = “Thank you. Look at your cake!”
    ʔi ɬeʔ yəqʷt = “Now, let’s light it.”

    Narrarator: nəc̓aʔ, yəseɬə, ɬixʷ, χeʔaθən, ɬq̓ecəs, t̕χəm = “One, two, three, four, five, six.”

    Melissa: ʔəm̓i.  ʔəm̓i.  ʔi ɬeʔ t̕iləm = “Come! Come! Now, let’s sing.

    All: ʔiyəs tə n̓a weyəl ʔəθ kʷan = “Happy, this day of your birth.”
    ʔiyəs tə n̓a weyəl ʔəθ kʷan = “Happy, this day of your birth.”
    ʔiyəs tə n̓a weyəl ɬekʷəm wali = “Happy, this day dear one, Wally.”
    ʔiyəs tə n̓a weyəl ʔəθ kʷan = “Happy, this day of your birth.”

    Wally: wə n̓an ʔəw ʔəy̓ = “Very good!”

    Melissa: qəχ tə həy̓qwi:n = “So many candles!” (həy̓qwi:n means light/lamp/candle/lantern)

    Wally: ʔecəne = “Wow!”

    Melissa: ʔaw̓θθət čxʷ. pa:t čxʷ = “Hurry up! Blow it (out), you!”

    Both: ʔi ɬeʔ ʔəɬtən = “Let’s eat!”

    Try This:

    After watching this video try saying how old you are in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. Use the lesson on numbers above to learn how to say your age. Then try to copy the sentence where Wally says her age above, but instead, use your own age.

  • Learning the difference between Up River dialect and Down River dialect

    Listen to the differences between the two languages when Sesmelot speaks. Note the differences in sounds, and some words.

    Halq’eméylem
    Éy swayel (Good day)
    Sesmelot tél skwix (Sesmelot is my name)
    teli tsel kwe Qwo:n’tel’ (I come from Kwantlen)
    Éy kw’es emí (Welcome)
    Kw’as hó:y (Thank you)

    hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓
    ʔəy̓ sweyəl (Good day)
    sesmélət k̓ʷə nə skʷix (Sesmelot is my name)
    təniʔ cən ʔə ƛ̓ q̓ʷa:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (I come from Kwantlen)
    ʔəm̓i čxʷ kʷətxʷiləm (Welcome)
    hay ce:p q̓ə (Thank you)

    Additional Notes:
    Glottals: A glottal is the sound you make when stopping air flow using your throat or tongue, then letting it burst out to make a sound. English sounds such as the soft “g” as in “golf” is a glottal sound.

  • skʷit̕ᶿəc (Blackbird by the Beatles sung in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓)

    Enjoy this song translated to hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓.

  • Rose's Honour Song

    Sung by Sheila Jack. This song was gifted to her by former Aboriginal Support Worker, Rose Green. The song is a song of honouring and is sung in Halq’eméylem, the Upper River dialect.

    At the beginning of the video she addresses the viewers in the Cree language before moving into the song in Halq’eméylem. This is a great opportunity to listen to the sounds and differences of the different languages.

    Ts’ítolé = Thanking you all

    íkw’elò emí = here coming (for coming here)