Biographical Details: Born in Brandon, Manitoba in 1934. Moved to Victoria, BC in 1938. BA (Honours) in German, UBC 1957. MA in German, U of California (Berkeley) 1959. Member of UBC's German Department (later Department of Germanic Studies) 1961 to 1996.


Prior to contact with Europeans the Sechelt Indians' territory extended from the head of Queen's Reach in Jervis Inlet to the western entrance of Howe Sound on the British Columbia coast.

In 1985, UBC's Ronald Beaumont published a grammar guide for the Sechelt language, she shashishalhem (Theytus, 1985), complete with English-to-Sechelt and Sechelt-to-English cross-referencing.

It has been followed by the 1,000-page Sechelt Dictionary (Sechelt Indian Band, 2011), a mammoth undertaking based on material Beaumont collected during a forty-year period from 1970 to 2010.


Ron Beaumont told BC BookWorld:

"My interest in North American indigenous languages was sparked by some Linguistics courses that I took in the late 1950s while I was pursuing graduate studies in Germanic philology at the University of California in Berkeley.

"Back in Vancouver and teaching at UBC, I learned, in 1969, from acquaintances involved in the recording of BC Indian languages that nobody was currently working on Sechelt. With the permission of then Chief Henry Paull I started recording Sechelt language material in 1970. I knew that Sechelt, like a number of other indigenous languages, was almost extinct, and I believed that the extent of my avocational service would simply be to add whatever I could to the existing archival documentation of the language.

"This rather bleak view began to change in the late 1970s, when I was asked to create a Sechelt language course for the newly developed Native Environmental Studies Program for high school students. Prior to this I had worked with individual informants, but now I found myself meeting regularly with a few Sechelt elders who functioned as consultants for the project. This committee, spearheaded by the late Clarence Joe, showed a keenness that I had not expected.

"The Native Environmental Studies Program was short-lived, but the language committee's enthusiasm was not. The elders became convinced that we should be teaching all the kids, starting with the very young, the language of their ancestors. As our work progressed, I was amazed at how much of the language was being recalled. Soon the language was being taught at the nursery school on the reserve and in the local public schools. And I was working on a pedagogical grammar of Sechelt.

"Looking back on all of this, I think that our work was an important part of a Sechelt cultural revival that was beginning to blossom at that time. We realize that the Sechelt language and its use can never be completely restored, but-as we have already experienced-even a modest revival of it is of enormous significance to the Sechelt people in maintaining their cultural identity.

After the publication of she shashishalhem: The Sechelt Language in 1985, the language committee (now quite a bit larger) decided to start work on a dictionary of Sechelt. Even then I knew that this was going to be a much bigger project. We still had to get a lot more information, and this kind of work was slow going. Also, I could not devote more than a few hours each week to analysis and filing.

"The actual writing did not begin until 1995, a year before I retired from UBC, and I was still gathering and analysing material until shortly before completion in late 2010. In order to make this accumulating information available to the language committee and the teachers, I provided them with a computer printout of my latest version almost every year until 2008.

"Possibly the greatest challenge for me was to make the information in the dictionary more accessible to the lay reader by avoiding the use of technical terminology. This took a lot of thought and time. I don't know if I succeeded in this, but I certainly enjoyed trying!

"Finally, I have to say that from beginning to end I have enjoyed the friendship, cooperation, encouragement, and patience of people at every level within the Sechelt Nation. This made, and continues to make, working with them a pure pleasure."


Beverly Craigan, Education Administrative Assistant
Sechelt Nation Education Department
Box 740, Sechelt, BC V0N 3A0
ph. 604-885-6016 fax. 604-885-6071
toll free 1-866-885-2275

[BCBW 2012]