June 30, 2007

Coast Salish

Ever wondered who the heck these people are? What is the Coast Salish language?

Well, they don't exist, kind of.

There is no 'Coast Salish' language. Salish, and Coast Salish (along with Interrior Salish) are linguistical derived terms for a classification of a groupings in languages that have some connection, but somtimes little connection to each other. Like many other patriarchial classification and misnomers along the Northwest Coast, ''Salish'' comes from the Kootenai nation in the US. The anthropologists hit them first, and started grouping every other Indigenous nation northward of the same group. This is similar to the Kwakiutl and Kwakwaka'wakw. Imagine hitting Canada first and assuming everyone is a Nova Scotian.

So, when you say 'Salish' who are you talking about? A modern misnomer for a group of Indigenous people between Montana, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia? Coast Salish territory you say? Play into the historical inaccurate designations.

From Occupies Coast Salish Territories
You might of heard this frequently from grassroots communiques and letters based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. A brief history of the land in dispute would help elevate the conundrum.

Vancouver is located on what used to be a massive resource center for many Indigenous nations. Specifically, the Skwxwu7mesh, Sel'it'wetulh, and Xwmetskwiem located in and around Vancouver. Current land disputes between these nations have occurred since the uprising of Canadians response to grassroots resistance like Oka, which most know as the BC Treaty Process. Land use obviously wasn't understood in barbaric European ways such of 'ownership' and 'property'. It came down to two ways of understanding: use and carry. Individuals, or families, would use or carry a name, a song, a right, a parcel of land, a canoe, a longhouse, a ceremony etc. Ownership is quite explicit in it's selfish nature. How can we own anything when we are here for a short amount of time and are knowingly passing this on for future generations.

I'm going to spell it out so no body can twist what I'm trying to explain.

Your living in a house with siblings. Someone, say, the Government of Canada throught he British Columbia Treaty Commission, asks you, "What parts of the house do you own?" Then you think about it and you say, "Well, I use the bathroom, the living room and my room." Then they go and ask your sister the same question. She says, "Well, I use the bathroom, the kitchen, and my room." It's easy to understand a European understanding of land could mess this whole situation up. The BC Treaty Process hasn't helped with it neo-colonial complex of assimilation and colonization, so naturally Indian Act chiefs are quick to fight among land ownership and such.

But let me be clear: Vancouver is sitting on unceded Skwxwu7mesh territory.


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