The Parksville-Qualicum Community Foundation (PQCF) is working to build permanent legacies that support local causes. One cause that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous people of Vancouver Island is the revitalization of Indigenous languages, and one young man, Tim Masso, is championing this cause with the foundation’s support.
With a scholarship established by the Elm Family Foundation and facilitated through PQCF, Masso is close to completing his bachelor of education through the University of Victoria with a specialization in Indigenous language revitalization — at just 17.
“We are pleased to have recognized and supported this cause in the early years of Masso’s educational aspirations,” said Lawrence Jacobson, Elm Family Foundation.
What began in his childhood as recognition of the power behind Indigenous healing practices and Coast Salish songs during his brother’s brain surgery recovery, became the foundation for Masso’s mission to save the languages of his ancestors and spread his dialect of Nuu-chah-nulth.
It has become a race against time to keep languages of their ancestors alive, as only a few fluent speakers remain in B.C. Among the few that remain are elders who have knowledge of the language, but have not spoken it since they were punished as children in residential schools.
Both Masso and his older brother, Hjalmer Wenstob, have joined committees representing their Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, near Tofino, B.C. and advocated to all levels of government for language revitalization funding. The brothers are collaborating to add new elements to their culture, including writing modern songs in Nuu-chah-nulth so they can dance, sing and celebrate in their own language.
Masso and Wenstob are among younger generations who are taking up the cause, learning and teaching the languages at the same time to revitalize the Indigenous languages spoken across Vancouver Island and southwestern B.C.