Underwood, G. David (PENÁĆ)

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University of Victoria


This project explores the experiences of adults learning the Indigenous language of SENĆOŦEN, in the WSÁNEĆ (Saanich) language group. It looks at adult language acquisition experiences, and examines the theory and practice of Indigenous language revitalization. The Mentor-Apprenticeship Program (MAP) and the SȾÁSEN TŦE SENĆOŦEN [SENĆOŦEN springboard] Language Apprenticeship Program are examined through an auto-ethnographic lens as a way of documenting a personal learning journey—from language-learning apprentice to language speaker, and finally to language teacher. The metaphor of travelling by canoe is used as a way of reflecting on the SENĆOŦEN language-learning journey, allowing a consideration of the optimal conditions for learning SENĆOŦEN, even as optimal conditions are necessary to travel by canoe on the water. The question that guides this project—SX̱ENI,EṈ YEW̱ ȻNEs TW̱E SENĆOŦEN? [How is it that that I have come to speak SENĆOŦEN?]—is explored through the auto-ethnographic reflection process and tells the story of how SENĆOŦEN was learned and how it is currently being spoken. The story recounts how SENĆOŦEN was learned with the help of the elders of the W̱SÁNEĆ community; it describes the guiding principles and traditional teachings of these elders, and recounts the self-motivating and external motivational factors, including the personal beliefs and practices that enhanced the learning and speaking of SENĆOŦEN. Various language acquisition and language revitalization theories and practices have been examined in the course of this reflection, including sociocultural theory, monitor theory, affective filter and affective language intimacy. Indigenous research methodologies have also been examined in order to align the project with current Indigenous research practices that focus on relationality, and the storyteller as researcher, and take into account Indigenous epistemologies and traditional worldviews that are founded on respect and a holistic sense of interconnectedness.