Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Snpinktn is an indigenous place name in present-day British Columbia that was Anglicized and changed into Penticton. This week I had the opportunity to visit snpinktn with a fluent elder from that area. I was the taxi-man who brought him home from the Sisyikst gathering last week in Inchelium. The whole time we were together, he corrected me when I pronounced the English place name. It might be something casual like, "I've never been to Penticton before," but he stopped me every time and repeated the name in Salish. He spoke the word slowly and emphatically, "Sn-pink-tn." He never uttered a tone of anger or irritation, but perhaps a quiet insistence to not validate the colonial distortion of the indigenous landscape.  

This elder's influence impacted me in unexpected ways. I found myself speaking scattered phrases of his dialect, simply because they were present in every conversation - I didn't have to think about it. By the time I left Canada, I found myself thanking cashiers or greeting waitresses in Salish. At the border, the agent asked, "Where did you visit in Canada?" 

Without thinking, I said, "snpinktn," and for a moment, I totally blanked on the English name.  

The reserve sits on a hillside overlooking the city. Most of the road signs are written in Salish first, followed by English. These are small cultural reminders, but they are so important. I wish our community would do this. 

The Outma SqilxÊ· Cultural School helped sponsor an elder's gathering for elders and young people to come together and share cultural knowledge. After taking my friend home, I stayed another couple days to witness some of the cultural events. 

My new sl'axt Koy showed some of the 
young men how to raise a tepee. 

A woman demonstrated a dip net 
made entirely from spec'n (dogbane).

She also demonstrated spec'n bags.  

Cottonwood canoes on display. 

The food for the elder's dinner was cooked in 
pit ovens, just like we do at Wellpinit. 

Hide tanning demonstration. 

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