Introduction for Teachers and Educators

The Voices of Snuneymuxw Virtual Museum highlights the unique language and dialect of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Island Hul’q’umin’um. This site also brings together, for the first time in one place, some Snuneymuxw artifacts that are currently being held in museum collections around the world. It is the intent of the Snuneymuxw First Nation to one day repatriate or bring these objects home. There are other objects showcased here that are not held within museums at all, but are representative of living Snuneymuxw culture.

First Nations on the west coast of Canada are distinguished from one another principally by language origins rather than territory. For example, languages spoken by the Nu-Chah-Nulth people of the west coast of Vancouver Island have different origins than languages spoken by the Coast Salish people from other parts of Vancouver Island and on the mainland of British Columbia.

The Snuneymuxw First Nation is Coast Salish. There are twenty-three languages within the Salish language family. They have the same origins, but they are incomprehensible to each other. The Snuneymuxw speak a sub-dialect of the dialect Island Hul’q’umin’um, which is itself a dialect of the Hul’q’umin’um language. There is some overlap between other Hul’q’umin’um speakers, for example those living on the Fraser River, or those just south of Nanaimo in Duncan.

To present the material in the most useable way, the objects in the virtual museum have been used as the framework for the site, a place to support information and stories. There are thirteen modules, which correspond to the objects presented here. Each module has five themes, through which the objects can be explored. The five themes are: Object Information, Elder’s Knowledge, Community Stories, Environment and Language.

For example if you are interested in the house posts, “Object Information” gives the size, age and other related information on the house posts. Click on “Elder’s Knowledge” for legends or stories related to the house posts. “Community Stories” explores how the objects are currently used by contemporary Snuneymuxw people or in what way they have been replaced by something else. The “Environment” theme discusses raw materials and the places in the Snuneymuxw territory where the house posts were created or used. “Language” highlights a selection of words and phrases in Hul’q’umin’um that are related to house posts.

Each module includes an assortment of visual, audio and interactive features to enhance the visitor’s experience. In addition to photographs and maps, there are video clips and POD casts. Illustrations are included to provide a visual context for behaviours associated with the objects and to provide opportunities for exploring the Snuneymuxw language. There is also a separate section on the complex issue of repatriation as well as bibliographies to aid further research.

Whichever way you and your students choose to explore the site, we have endeavored to create a virtual museum experience that is rich enough to reflect the thriving and unique culture of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.