nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əmúcən is the language of the nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əm’ (Klallam or S’Klallam) people Indigenous to the lands that the English named the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island in Washington State and British Columbia. The Point No Point Treaty, signed in 1855, transferred the entirety of their territory in what is now the U.S. to the occupation government and directed them to relocate to the distant Skokomish Reservation. Preferring to take their chances against the flood of settlement and timber extraction, the nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əm’ remained in their homelands and were only much later in the 20th century able to gain recognition. Today the nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əm’ are divided into three separate sovereign nations with respective reservation lands – the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes.
Unlike far too many Indigenous languages, Klallam was fortunate to have 21 elders recorded speaking the language since the 1950s. But by the time Congress passed the Native American Language Act in 1990, there were only eight people who could speak Klallam. Determined to keep the language alive as a spoken language, the Klallam Language Program was developed in 1992 to document and preserve the Klallam language by recording and transcribing tapes with tribal elders who spoke the language.
To hear these place names pronounced and to learn more about the Klallam language, visit the Klallam Language Program’s website. The site contains more than 2,000 Klallam words, which are accompanied by sound files.
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