Ray Sam visited SENINES (Senanus) Island for the last time in 2009 to support the restoration efforts of Tsartlip youth maintaining the threatened Garry oak meadows of this sacred place in the Saanich Inlet.
Sam passed away in 2010, leaving a very small group of SENCOTEN language speakers to maintain their cultural heritage. Tsartlip Elder Anne Sam and language apprentice MENEŦIYE (Munuthia Elliott) welcomed HAT to the Island along with members of Peninsula Streams and the KENNES (Hagan Creek) Watershed Project. For several years we have been clearing invasive transformer plants like broom and daphne, while seeding in native food plants like camas and chocolate lily.
Maintaining the language and the land go hand in hand. SENCOTEN is also now taught for one hour a day to students at Lauwelnew Tribal School in an effort to revive the language. Munuthia is one of six Sencoten language apprentices hoping to become fluent while the eight remaining fluent speakers, most of whom are in their 80's, are still alive.
"The language is like a poem and a song. Everything has a deeper meaning than just the words," Munuthia said.
An example are the words for different types of clams which reflect the traditional story that humans who ran away from the Creator were turned into clams and forced to hide in holes.
The word for butter clam translates into “why-are-you-there”, Munuthia said.
Munuthia volunteers at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, where amazing displays of ocean life feature native names alongside English ones.