Sm’algyax is a dialect of the Tsimshian language spoken in northwestern British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Sm’algyax means literally “real or true language.”
The language of the people of Kitsumkalum is Sm’algyax. To put this language into a regional context, it it similar to the language of the Nisga’a and Gitksan people but very different from the language of the Haisla people in Kitamaat and the Haida people. When many newcomers came to the Skeena in the 19th century speaking English, Gaelic, and French as their mother tounges, Tsimshian people needed language training to communicate with them.
Language expertise was a skill taught in the past. Many Tsimshian received language training so they could travel widely amoung the nations of the northwest or learned foreign languages as a result of contact with people from other nations. Tsimshian oral histories are filled with stories of visits to other First Nations in what is now British Columbia, and when Europeans arrived Tsimshian travel was extended immediately to include more distant locations such as Hawaii, Asia, Europe and many other parts of the world. New language skills were acquired to interact with the new nationalities encountered in the colonial period, but the need for foreign languages fit into the older pattern. Today, however, there is an important difference in the need for other languages because the dominant language in the territory is no longer Sm’algyax but English. The colonial period resulted in English becoming the mother tongue of many Tsimshians.
*All spellings of the words in our language, Sm’algyax, are standardized to the spellings in People of the Robin: the Tsimshian of Kitsumkalum by James Andrew McDonald (2003) in order to remain consistent with other writings on this website. Much of the cultural content on this website can be referenced from James Andrew McDonald (2003), People of the Robin: The Tsimshian of Kitsumkalum book, Kitsumkalum Social History Research Projects and Kitsumkalum elders.
Work on this project was facilitated by the use of software to adapt the normal keyboard of a computer for the special characters used in Sm’algyax. This software may be downloaded free by going to the following website: www.languagegeek.com and searching for the Sm’algyax keyboard.
UNBC Sm’algyax Living Legacy Talking Dictionary
This Dictionary is a true Living Legacy of Sm’algyax. Visit: http://web.unbc.ca/~smalgyax
First Peoples’ Language Map of B.C.
Visit First Voices Language Map for more information regarding First Nation languages in British Columbia. Visit: http://maps.fphlcc.ca
Sm’algyax Interpretations for the Months in the Year
|February||Ha’liwilgisiyaask||North Wind Month|
|April||Ha’lilaxsis’waanax||Herring Roe Month|
|August||Ha’lilaxstmhoon||Pink Salmon Month|
Sm’algyax Interpretations for the Moons and the Seasons
|First day of Spring||Ksgoogm sah da Gooym|
|First day of Summer||Ksgoogm sah da Suunt|
|First day of Fall||Ksgoogm sah da Ksuut|
|First day of Winter||Ksgoogm sah da Goomsm|