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Secwepemcésk̓e: Secwépemc personal names and naming

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This research addresses the subject of Secwepemcésk̓e, Secwépemc personal names and naming, in order to increase knowledge about our traditional names, and help to revitalize the use of Secwepemctsín names as an important domain in the use and knowledge of our language. It is a contribution to the overall revitalization of our endangered language. To recover Secwépemc traditional names that our ancestors from Skítsestn and Tk̓emlúps were given during the 19th and early 20th centuries, I worked with archival records such as Baptisms 1867-1882 and Marriages 1873-1874 from the Kamloops Catholic Diocese; the 1881 Canada Census (Yale Division); the 1877-1878 Joint Reserve Commission Census; and early band lists from the 1920s. In focus group sessions and interviews, I discussed these with a group of Secwepemctsín speaking Elders, mainly from Skítsestn, who provided translations, correct pronunciations, the meaning and context of names, and cultural background information. The information from these sessions, a literature review of previous ethnographic writings and analyses of names by ethnographer James Teit, and research completed by Drs. Marianne and Ronald Ignace all combined to provide a comprehensive examination of Secwépemc names and practices of name-giving. In addition, these works, combined with the focus group sessions with Elders, revealed various categories of Secwepemc names, including ancestral names that derive from spirit-guardian quests (étsxem) but were then passed down to keep the memory of ancestors alive, as well as nick-names that refer to characteristics of a person, and names that directly name the guardian spirit of a person. To enable better understanding of the linguistic structure of Secwepemcésk̓e, I provide a linguistic morpheme gloss of names across these categories, in the hope that this will enable new generations of Secwépemc to engage in naming practices true to the practices and protocols of our ancestors.
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