In the past, the Secwepemc language was not a written language although pictographs were used as a form of symbolic communication. The Secwepemc people relied on oral traditions to pass information from one generation to the next. Everyday communication included the telling of legends, stories, and history. In this way lessons were taught to the children.
With the introduction of the English language by white missionaries and settlers, use of the Secwepemc language declined. The Secwepemc language is now being revived using language materials to teach and computers to record. Elders and Secwepemc language teachers working in the community and public schools are valuable resources.
James Alexander Teit was born in Scotland in 1864. He arrived in British Columbia in 1884 and developed an interest in native people. Teit wrote a number of books, one of which was about the Secwepemc people.
Teit was a linguist, fluent in four or five tribal languages, a botanist, and an amateur entomologist, photographer of plants and people, and an anthropologist. He recorded the cultural lifestyles, stories, and dialects of the Secwepemc. James Teit compiled a book in 1909 titled "The Shuswap"; he was well known for his work. He adopted the lifestyle of the native people and was well accepted by them. He passed away in 1922 at the age of 58.
In 1882, a French priest named Father Le Jeune arrived in Kamloops. One of his purposes was to teach the Secwepemc Indians how to understand the Bible and other religious books.
In 1890 he devised a systemof writing using Duployan shorthand adapted to Chinook jargon. Over the years he was able to teach and converse with the natives in their own language. About 500 Indians understood and used this system. He also published a journal called "The Kamloops Wawa." This journal was used amongst the Secwepemc people as a source of written communication. Father Jean Marie Le Jeune died in 1930.
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