Speaking Tsimshian in the city

Joey Wesley left northern B.C. for Vancouver, but his Indigenous language never left him.

“If you don’t know who you are or where you come from, it’s a scary place for a First Nation person,” Joey Wesley says.

Wesley is Tsimshian from Lax Kw’alaams in northern B.C. Although he has lived in Vancouver for the last 12 years, he knows who he is and where he’s from. And he still speaks his Indigenous language.

Growing up, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents in their home. “All throughout the ’80s there, all I basically heard was mostly my Sm’algyax language. There was minimal English most days,” he says.

Now he’s teaching his son and daughter to speak their language, too.

Watch his video:


This video is part of our ongoing coverage of the urban Indigenous community in the Lower Mainland. Sign up here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.


More from this series:

Learning Cree and Ojibwe feels like ‘coming home,’ these urban Indigenous students say

These language classes are helping Indigenous people reclaim their ‘stolen heritage’

This residential school survivor is teaching a new generation to speak Ojibwe

If we lose our Indigenous culture and language, ‘we lose everything’

Elders help urban Indigenous youth connect to culture — if they can find each other

How saying ‘I’m gay’ in Heiltsuk connects this Indigenous man to his ancestors

Fake art hurts Indigenous artists as appropriators profit

A Lower Mainland man’s search for what it means to be Métis

Indigenous kids need better access to culture while in government care

Roots workers help Indigenous kids in care connect with culture. Why are there so few?



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