In the fall of 2018, a team of creative people came together under a partnership between Skwah First Nation and the Artist Response Team (ART) to create school curriculum merging the importance of environmental awareness with Stó:lō language, songs and stories.
The team consisted of Dr. Síyamiyatelíyót (Elizabeth Phillips), the last remaining fluent speaker of Halq’eméylem, who is the project spiritual leader and guide, Xótwes (Jonny Williams) who teaches Halq’émeylem in schools with guidance and support from his grandmother, Siyamiyateliyot, T’ít’elem Spáth (Eddie Gardner), a strong wild salmon advocate, who promotes Stó:lō history and culture, Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright who are songwriters/ singers/producers who create eco-rock songs and produce Voices of Nature school programs and concerts, and Valerie O’Connal who is the Community Plan Navigator with Skwah First Nation. The late Dr. Stelómethet (Ethel Gardner) participated in the creation of songs and stories. She dedicated her life and career to the revitalization of Halq’eméylem and promotion of quality education. Cheyenne Gardner (Lexws T’ít’elemot), Ethel’s niece, was added to the team to help sing the songs.
They created bilingual songs in Halq’eméylem and English to share with children of all backgrounds to sing together. This fosters positive relationships amongst their families and creatively advances cross cultural understanding, respect and reconciliation. This project showcases the power of song and storytelling in bringing the Halq’eméylem language and culture alive.