Musqueam Reference Grammar


595 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-1002-5
DDC 497'.94





Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.


As in many First Nations communities in Canada, few, other than the
middle-aged or older, still speak native languages. Suttles, a
well-respected scholar of the Coast Salish peoples, has extensively
documented the Musqueam dialect, a downriver dialect of Halkomelem,
which is a branch of the Salish language. Although Musqueam is primarily
spoken on the Musqueam reserve, which is located just outside of the
city of Vancouver, the grammar is applicable to other downriver speakers
like the Tsawwassen, Kwantlen, and Katzie. The downriver dialect is also
associated with the more distinct upriver Halkomelem dialects of the
Fraser River, and to the more prolific Vancouver Island dialect. It soon
became evident to Suttles that Musqueam speakers, since the 1950s and
1960s, have actually spoken a Cowichan (Vancouver Island) variant, which
may be due to the Musqueam’s stay at residential schools on Kuper
Island, where they were exposed to the island grammatical forms (which
are generally more extensive because of the higher population). Suttles
found that this grammatical form became particularly important for use
in Musqueam ceremonies.

The book contains some ethnographical information that communicates
critical cultural information for shellfish gathering, fishing, hunting,
and transportation. There is also a useful appendix that includes the
names of places and peoples. All subjects of syntax, morphology, and
phonology are covered. Curiously, a history of the previous work on
Halkomelem is relegated to an appendix rather than appearing, as one
would expect, at the front of the book. And, even though this is a
reference grammar and not a dictionary, a vocabulary would have been


Suttles, Wayne., “Musqueam Reference Grammar,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,