Our Story...
the short version.
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Some of our Happy Friends/'Iiyus Siiye'yu group. From Left to Right, top:

Sally Hart, Denise Augustine, Janette (Jan) Bruce, Merle Seymour, Stephanie Peter. Bottom: Some of the children who participated in our singing group.

Top Left photo: Mena Pagaduan-Williams

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Stephanie Peter's oldest daughter, Natalie, and Jan Bruce's youngest daughter, Chloe. Both were part of the first parent and tot group and sing on the cd's.

'Iiyus Siiye'yu/Happy Friends songs resulted from the joyful gatherings of friends and their families. This group of friends is made up of Cowichan elders, Hul'q'umi'num' language advisors, educators, musicians, parents and children (please see the list of all our contributors on our Acknowledgements page).

Each person in our Happy Friends/'Iiyus Siiye'yu group has their own story, experiences, and motivation for why they gave of their time to volunteer on this project. For now, we will start the story of "Happy Friends" in 2006, when Stephanie Peter and Janette (Jan) Bruce were introduced by a mutual friend/family member. These two mothers had a shared interest, and experiences with, fine arts. They too had their own personal stories, and they both had a desire to build community relationships and see the Hul'q'umi'num' language thrive. In 2007 they started a parent and tot group to share stories and sing songs. Cowichan Elders Mena Pagaduan (now, Williams), Violet George, and others came alongside them to share songs in Hul'q'umi'num' and help with the language component of creating more songs to fit with the research-based format they had developed.

 

The format allows for the songs to be executed in a variety of ways and includes focused listening activities, stationary action songs, travelling movement/spatial awareness/action songs, name recognition songs (to build relationships and confidence in speaking in front of a group), a transition/clean-up song (to allow teachers to move from one activity or song to another,) imaginary play, and more. These songs can be enjoyed by simply playing them in our vehicles, at home, or where ever we like to listen to music. They can also be used in classrooms as single action songs or as 30 to 45-minute music and movement classes - promoting multi-sensory learning and fun.

After CD#1 was created, there was such positive feedback, that in 2010 a second CD was produced. Funding coordinators were Ada Mawson, Denise Augustine and Janette Bruce. These CDs were distributed by our funding partner, Aboriginal Success by 6, to early learning groups, in packages for newborn babies at the Cowichan District Hospital, to School District 79, and in the community to anyone wanting to learn, practice and sing along in Hulq'umi'num'.

 

The beauty of the recordings is that the songs can be enjoyed by all ages, and the Hul'q'umi'num' sounds and dialect can be heard rather than just seen on paper. Some people are nervous to speak Hul'q'umi'num' for fear of passing the language on in-correctly, but singing along with these recordings takes that stress away.

 

Stephanie has since gone on to complete a masters degree in education and did her thesis on the use of children's songs as a strategy in second language acquisition and revitalization of the Hul'q'umi'num' language using the Happy Friends program. Jan has created a resource/curriculum guide to accompany the songs, videos, and helped School District 79 (Cowichan) create kits for teachers based on the one she created for the parent and tot program she and Stephanie led. Jan based this resource guide on training she had completed to be a certified Music & Movement instructor. She is an Educational Assitant, has experience in Early Childhood Education, and currently works for School District 79 Cowichan.

All the members of the Happy Friends/'Iiyus Siiye'yu group continue to give of their time to not only preserve the Hul'q'umi'num language but see it thrive. The Coast Salish language of Hul'q'umi'num' is spoken in areas of South Eastern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.