axaʔ iʔ kʷu syilx iʔ kʷu ͝ sukʷnaqinx kʷu cnqilxʷcən ta nsyilxcən uɬ way t̕əsxʷuy uɬ ta mnimɬtət kə ck̕ɬqixʷstm uɬ kə ctiɬstm, uɬ niʕip kə ck’ʷulmstm iʔ nsyilxcən aʔ nqilxʷcntət.
We, the Syilx Okanagan Peoples have spoken our nsyilxcən language since time immemorial, and we are responsible for the protection, revitalization and advancement of our nsyilxcən language. – excerpt from the Syilx Okanagan Language Declaration
At the 2018 ONA Annual General Assembly, on July 18th at saʔtikn at the Manning Park Resort, the present Syilx Okanagan Nation Elders and member Chiefs endorsed the Iʔ Syilx iʔ sukʷnaqinx scqʷəlqʷiltət Syilx Okanagan Language Declaration. While the Council and Nation members signed as witnesses, drummers and singers provided spiritual significance to the signing with beautiful songs that filled the room already bursting with so much pride.
Over the last year, speakers have developed the Language Declaration as an expression of Syilx legal principles that stand as a valuable instrument to be able to advocate for the importance of our language. Our language gives us this right and responsibility to be here. Our Elders spoke in nsyilxcen to the importance of the signing of this historic Declaration. Elder and fluent language speaker Pauline Archacan also talked about our rights and the significance of the Declaration and how she was fully satisfied with the wording in the Declaration.
Speaking to the importance of the Declaration Chief Byron Louis stated, “That this is the most significant document I have ever signed.”
After the signing took place, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said “this is history, incredibly significant. This is an international standard of nationhood. Forty-five years ago, the majority of our people were fluent, sadly that’s not the case anymore. This Declaration is a public expression of intent to stay together. This Declaration contains our laws on how we care take our culture and everything that represents. Without the language it’s impossible to undertake these tasks. It’s at the core of our being, there’s no question. We’ve been encouraged by our Elders to revive our language and today we made this commitment.”
The work to develop this Declaration took a long time, this was a very significant day. We want to acknowledge all those who worked on this Declaration and through this work we honour our Elders and those who have kept our language alive.