S1 | Ep. 008 | Tah-wee-thlot | Juanita Jefferson

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In this podcast episode I’m sitting down with one of our dearest and beloved elders, Juanita Jefferson, who tells many stories from her time. Lummi Language is sacred to us and was almost lost back in the 1800’s when residential schools were brought upon us. The choice to speak our language was taken from us. Someone decided that we were too savage, that we needed to be put in school to learn not in our ways but theirs. In this interview, we get to hear the many things that she has done for our community and she speaks about other valued elders as well. These elders worked hard to create the different programs to provide for our people- things like education, healthcare, and jobs. These opportunities were needed for our people to survive in the ever changing external society. One of my favorite stories is about our late Chief Bill James; he was one of our main fluent Lummi language speakers and is also my uncle. Juanita talks about how a group of elders got together and started speaking Lummi after not being able to speak it for so long because they were too afraid of their own children getting killed or beaten for learning and speaking our own language. The elders were traumatized from the abuse they suffered being forced to relocate to residential schools, however they decided as adults to keep the language alive. Bill was just a child then and being that young and being surrounded by a group of elders that know our language fluently was special. He got to experience and learn from hearing the language which turned into him helping to preserve our language. He was so pure that he soaked all that knowledge back as he got older the very thing he did was give that language back to our people for our future generations to learn and preserve. Hy’shqe to the many elders who fought for our language to be here today and to our ancestors above who believed. They had HOPE. Hy’shqe to everyone who participated in this podcast episode.

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