M'i tst t'akw': the tellings of Dr. Sam ; text and Coast Salish oratory.

Date

2011-06-01

Authors

Cienski, Andrew

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Abstract

Dr. Samuel Sam O.C. (February 19, 1925—December 18, 2007) was a traditionally trained orator of the Tsartlip Nation, located in the territory of WSÁNEĆ (Saanich), Vancouver Island. He spoke the two Central Coast Salish languages of SENĆOŦEN (dialect of Northern Straits, Coast Salish) and Hul’q’umi’num’ (dialect of Halkomelem, Coast Salish). In the summer of 2006, Dr. Sam and I began the work of documenting some of his knowledge of the mythology, history, and people that made up his community. This thesis presents two excerpts from these recordings. The first is a traditional WSÁNEĆ Flood Story in SENĆOŦEN that tells of the source of the name of the territory and its people. The second is an autobiographical tale told in Hul’q’umi’num’ that describes Dr. Sam’s life as a young man, working as a migrant farmer with his wife and children. While collaborating with Dr. Sam to translate and render his stories into text, it became clear that the loss of contextual information surrounding them would be a hindrance to their appreciation and even understanding. This thesis discusses the role of context as a background against which the texts can be viewed. This context includes information about Dr. Sam’s motivations for sharing his knowledge, historical information about him and his nation, description of the traditional role of oratory on the West Coast, and about the decisions made in the process of rendering the oral genre into text. Coast Salish oratory is a traditional medium for transmission of information, knowledge, and moral teaching. It is as well a beautiful and complex oral art form, rich with stylistic features. The constitutive device of the oratory appears to be that of parallelism, whereby couplet lines and themes are ordered into structures ranging from simple to complex. Dr. Sam’s oratory is rich with examples of many features and parallel structures which can be found in neighbouring Coast Salish texts.

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Keywords

Salish language, Tsartlip, Saanich (B.C.)

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