Cultivating culture for Tsartlip kids

A young SENCOTEN woman is ensuring younger generations are immersed in their native culture by helping launch a new language program



SI,OLTENOT (Madeline) Bartleman looks forward to immersing toddlers in culture this January.

The Peninsula teacher got her name SI,OLTENOT (see-el-te-not) which means simply calm lady, from her great-grandmother Madeline James.

The Peninsula woman was recognized with a B.C. Aboriginal Student Award, a $3,500 scholarship to help further her studies at the University of Victoria. That recognition, she says, stems from her family and building a dream they held.

“Our ancestors fought so hard for our school here,” she said, sitting in the multipurpose room at LÁU,WELNEW Tribal School on West Saanich Road. “I want to carry on what so many of our elders worked for.”

Bartleman grew up at Pauquachin and attended LÁU,WELNEW from kindergarten through Grade 9, then finished high school at Stelly’s. Now students can attend secondary student at the tribal school on West Saanich Road, a sign of the growth toward the goal.

“Our whole vision for WSA’NEC’ is to have our whole school in immersion,” she explained.

A new program LENNONET SCULHA’UTW, starting in January, will see three- and four-year-olds in preschool immersed in the SENCOTEN language. Bartleman, who is in her third year of a SENCOTEN apprenticeship, will be among the leaders of the program.

Many of the students at the school are already immersed in the language of their ancestors and that’s what drives, and warms, Bartleman.

“To see the improvement in the kids’ language is amazing,” she said. “All of the kids probably know over 100 phrases.”

But she aspires to see more and continues her work to help the school grow. Last year she completed her certificate in aboriginal language revitalization. Now she’s working on a diploma in language revitalization and in three years aspires to have her bachelor of education in aboriginal language.

For her apprenticeship, alongside other members of the UVic WSA’NEC’ cohort, Bartleman spends five hours a week, on top of being a student and mother of four, with a fluent speaking elder. Currently she visits with elder Anne Jimmy, and they just hang out, converse and occasionally transcribe and translate old recordings of the language.

“It’s pure SENCOTEN,” Bartleman said. “She’s amazing and knows what they’re talking about.”


Did you know?

• First opened in 1989, LÁU,WELNEW Tribal School is supported by the four bands. About 185 students, nursery (preschool) to Grade 9 are bused to school each day and for special events.

• The school’s name is derived from the name of the Saanich People’s sacred mountain, LÁU,WELNEW – a spiritual place where the Saanich People found refuge after the great flood.

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