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 Aboriginal Language Teacher, Fern Gabriel — Sesmelot.

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

  • 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 Nickomekel

    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? — What is that?

    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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

    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)

    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.