It is so exciting to not just recognize but begin to see the integration of spuyaləpabš culture across Tacoma – caləłali. Recently, we have seen this in consideration of the renaming of Jason Lee Middle School to šəqalič Middle School. At the Downtown Tacoma Partnership, we are forever grateful and recognize that Downtown Tacoma is on the traditional land of the spuyaləpabš. ʔa čəł ʔal ti swatxʷixʷtixʷtxʷəd ʔə tiił spuyaləpabš.
That’s why when we first saw the yard sign project from the Puyallup Tribal Language Program, we couldn’t wait to learn more. This morning we spoke with Amber Hayward, Director of the Puyallup Tribal Language Program to learn more about the language program and how the yard-sign project plays a part in their bigger picture.
There were no Lushootseed speakers in the Puyallup Tribal Language Program seven years ago, and today there are over 200. Much of this success is to the program’s priority of Language Use, or how many hours a day speakers use the Lushootseed language. The more the language is spoken, seen, and heard, the more it becomes a healthy language.
“If you go to Mexico, wouldn’t you want to speak Spanish to navigate the culture? Why wouldn’t you want to speak our language on our reservation?” says Hayward. “If I go to Mexico, I am going to refresh my Spanish skills.” Hayward hopes that the language program grows both native and non-native community members to feel inspired to learn and use the Lushootseed language in the same way we use English.
“Half the world speaks at least two languages,” says Hayward. Point taken, it’s really up to us to learn the Lushootseed language to respect and support the efforts of our first people. One way that this begins is through the visibility of the language itself.
Recently, yard signs with Lushootseed phrases and various artwork from Puyallup & Salish artists; Paige Pettibon, Anthony Duenas & Shaun Peterson showed up at Fireman’s Park and Tollefson Plaza near the Welcome Figure carved by Shaun Peterson in Downtown Tacoma. This project was in partnership with the City of Tacoma Office of Arts & Vitality. The goal of this project is to bring visibility to the Lushootseed language. The signs were offered as a gift to help spread the word about the project and show support for integrating the Lushootseed language into our community.
“When you learn another language, you look at the world through another lens,” said Hayward. Learning the Lushootseed language allows us to look through the lens of our neighbors, the spuyaləpabš.
Look out for how the Puyallup Tribal Language Program supports the Lushootseed language and continues to integrate into our local community. hawadubš čələp Amber Hayward, Puyallup Tribal Language Program, and all the spuyaləpabš people.