Donate Now Menu

Dr. Siyamiyateliot Elizabeth Phillips

Culture, Heritage & Spirituality (2022)

Xwchíyò:m Cheam First Nation, BC

“That makes my life worthwhile, I would say. All the work I’ve done…Even if it’s only one word – that is the beginning.”

Called “a Stó:lō national treasure,” Elder Dr. Siyamiyateliot Elizabeth Phillips has spent more than 50 years preserving, revitalizing, and transmitting the Halq’eméylem language. She is the last fluent speaker and has been working on this critically important legacy since the 1970s, when she helped the original Coqualeetza Elders to gather Halq’eméylem words.

In the 1980s, she was part of the Elders group who developed a Halq’eméylem writing system; prior to their efforts, there was no written expression for Halq’eméylem. In an effort to reverse the trend of language extinction created by the residential school system, she has worked extensively with students, linguists, professors, Stó:lō Shxweli, and the innovative Good Medicine Songs Performers, translating numerous texts into Halq’eméylem while working on materials that were invaluable to language teachers. Elder Siyamiyateliot has been recorded speaking Halq’eméylem on film and as an ultrasound recording, enabling following generations of students to see exactly how certain Halq’eméylem sounds are made.

In recognition of her lifelong efforts, she received an Honorary Doctorate in 2018 from the University of the Fraser Valley, and UFV’s Student Union Society created an award in her name: The Elizabeth Phillips Seeking Indigenous Reconciliation Award.