Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

September 23, 2010

Salish Language Translation Dictionary published and available at NKwusm

By B.L. Azure

Nkwusm Director Tachini Pete recently had the Salish Language Translation Dictionary published. (B.L. Azure photo)
Nkwusm Director Tachini Pete recently had the Salish Language Translation Dictionary published. (B.L. Azure photo)

ARLEE - NKwusm Salish Language Immersion School Director Tachini Pete recently had a major component of his life’s work published. For nearly 20 years know Pete has been working on a Salish language dictionary. It was recently published and the Salish Language Translation Dictionary is now available for purchase.

Pete started to seriously learn the Salish language in 1993. Through the years he had collected a lot of Salish language materials, including notes from various language classes and at social and cultural gatherings.

“I always took a lot of notes in classes and at any gathering where Salish was spoken. I wrote everything down,” Pete said. “I put everything I collected in a binder. Then people started to ask me for copies of my notes about Salish. It was suggested that I put everything I had together in book form. I started to do that before I knew what form the book would be.”

Nkwusm teachers keep a close eye on the students preparing to dry meat. (B.L. Azure photo)
Nkwusm teachers keep a close eye on the students preparing to dry meat. (B.L. Azure photo)

Pete’s first attempt at putting all his Salish notes together began with a booklet.

“I started to put together a booklet that listed the English word in alphabetical order followed by the Salish translation. That was the easiest way, English first in alpha order then Salish,” Pete said. “I was attending Salish Kootenai College then and spent several months working long 16 hour days working on the booklet and going to school. I eventually got to the point where I had about a 50-page booklet.”

Magic McDougall of Hot Springs stopped by Nkwusm Salish Language Immersion School last week to thrill the little ones with his magicness. (B.L. Azure photo)
Magic McDougall of Hot Springs stopped by Nkwusm Salish Language Immersion School last week to thrill the little ones with his magicness. (B.L. Azure photo)

The booklet was published but more was needed both in scope and length, Pete said.

“It was then, around the end of 1998 that I started to work seriously to formalize a process of putting all the information I gathered together,” he said, adding that the booklet continued to grow and eventually took on the form of the Salish Language Translation Dictionary. It was a beefed up version of his first attempt that not only contained the English-Salish language translation but also the dictionary explanation of the precise meaning of the various Salish words where nuances can turn the meaning of words on a dime.

“From ë98 I have spent thousands and thousands of hours of my own time working on this, compiling everything I could about Salish,” he said.

Salish language teacher Pat Pierre says a phrase in English then his students write what he said in Salish. Then the whole class repeats it after the writer properly transcribes it on the board. (B.L. Azure photo)
Salish language teacher Pat Pierre says a phrase in English then his students write what he said in Salish. Then the whole class repeats it after the writer properly transcribes it on the board. (B.L. Azure photo)

Now after 12 years of concerted effort by Pete, the Salish Language Translation Dictionary was recently published in hardback form. But that is not the end of the effort. Pete said the dictionary remains a work in progress.

“There were several points during that time where I thought I should quit adding to it and just publish it,” Pete said. “The last five years have been a time of internal conflict around whether I should publish and release this or continue to refine it. It was the pressure from people requesting copies of this that finally pushed me to get it published and release it to the public.”

Pete will continue to gather information on the Salish language for updated editions as well as correct any mistakes that may be contained in the dictionary.

Prior to the noon lunch Salish language teacher Stephen Small Salmon led the Nkwusm students in a prayer of thankfulness for the bounty of the season. (B.L. Azure photo)
Prior to the noon lunch Salish language teacher Stephen Small Salmon led the Nkwusm students in a prayer of thankfulness for the bounty of the season. (B.L. Azure photo)

“There are mistakes in here. I can guarantee there are mistakes. There will be some translation-people who won’t agree with my translations or some of the spellings but that is the nature of the language,” Pete said. “I want to point out that in no way is this dictionary the penultimate authority on the Salish language. It is my own take on what I have learned through the years, my take on interpretations of the Salish language. It is available to people so they will have a tool to use to further their own learning of the Salish language. I know it will beneficial as a learning tool.”

One of the foremost things contained in the dictionary is the syntax and conjugation of the Salish language.

“This provides people with the patterns of Salish,” Pete said. “Most of the words in it are in the various forms of conjugation (tense, mood, person and number). There is nothing similar out there.”

The Salish Language Translation Dictionary is available for purchase at $45.

Smoke follows beauty. Once the pre-dry meat is cut then it is put on a grill over smoldering wood and sometimes smoke gets in the eyes as well as the dry meat. (B.L. Azure photo)
Smoke follows beauty. Once the pre-dry meat is cut then it is put on a grill over smoldering wood and sometimes smoke gets in the eyes as well as the dry meat. (B.L. Azure photo)

“In no way will I profit from this monetarily. All proceeds will be donated to NKwusm,” Pete said. “But I will profit from this effort in other ways. The riches come from the times I spent with the elders researching this dictionary. That is my reward.”

For more information, contact Tachini Pete at Nkwusm Salish Language Immersion School in Arlee or call 726-5050.

The dictionary is dedicated to former Nkwusm Salish language teacher the late Sophie “Supi” Mays and Pete’s children, Tachini, Jr., Kayenta, Stsalqw and Staan.

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