It all started with two CDs. Janette Bruce and Stephanie Peter first teamed up in 2006 to create Happy Friends/’Iiyus Siiye’yu Songs, a collection of music in the First Nations language of Hul’qumi’num.
“I was trying to come up with some songs in Hul’q’umi’num to teach my daughters. A mutual friend introduced me to this lovely woman who became my friend, Jan Bruce,” says Peter.
“That was kind of the beginning of it and we got together and then Stephanie formed a group to help with the language component of this music program,” adds Bruce.
Over the next few years and with the help of local elders each song was translated into Hul’q’umi’num. The CDs soon found their way into elementary school classrooms across the island.
We didn’t ever intend for the CDs to be used beyond a small group of parents who were part of a parent talk group,” says Peters.
“But today they are used in schools across the Cowichan Valley and also in Nanaimo, Penelakut Island, Sooke and the Greater Victoria area,” adds Peters.
Now the duo has created a website that allows educators to access each song, as well as videos and learning plans. They hope the streamlined delivery method will allow anyone to brush up on the language.
“The songs are side by side. Teachers can hop from one CD to another,” says Bruce.
“Hopefully with the resources that Jan’s created we’ll see more use,” says Peter. “I think that they’re well-received.”
It’s just one small step in preserving the language.
“I’d like to see us develop more resources and also see more community members take initiative to do something similar,” says Peter.
“You know it’s the language of the area which is important for everyone to learn,” says Bruce.
“It’s a revitalization aspect but it’s also just embracing the history and the roots of our area.”
To listen to the songs and find the lesson plans, head to the Happy Friends/’Iiyus Siiye’yu Songs website.