The SENĆOŦEN Speaking People

WSÁNEĆ territory is diverse, you can find sandy beaches, rocky shoreline and hilltops, coastal bluffs, estuary flatland and the odd open meadowland. The WSÁNEĆ people travelled in small groups between their winter villages on the coast and across parts of their territory on southeastern Vancouver Island, San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands to gather resources in the hunting and harvesting season.

Plants have always played an important role in the lives of the WSÁNEĆ (wh-say-nuch ) or SENĆOŦEN speaking people. Not only are plants (including seaweed, trees and shrubs) a major source of food they are also used for medicine, materials (plant technology) and the setting for cultural activities. “Plant names and terms related to plant harvesting and processing are a significant component of the [SENĆOŦEN] language” (Saanich Ethnobotany pg. 11), a langauage that is connected to the natural world, its animals, plants and the timing of natural events.

The seasonal harvesting activities are explained in detail in Earl Claxton’s book called The Saanich Year, “each family had it’s own special places and their own favorite resources and activities, but in general the pattern of seasonal rounds were on a 13 moon schedule.” (pg. 25)

Image result for the saanich year book  earl claxton
Dr. Earl Claxton Sr. with a map of
WSÁNEĆ territory

You can find a detailed moon schedule in my next post…

While researching how to properly pronounce WSÁNEĆ I came across a website called First Voices an online bilingual dictionary and phrase collection with over 1800 words and phrases in the SENĆOŦEN language that allows anyone with internet to access. There is also a link to download the  SENĆOŦEN app from iTunes.


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