Okanagan is an Interior Salishan language spoken in western Canada and in the northwestern USA. Historically the language was spoken mainly along the Okanagan and Columbia rivers. It is now spoken in Douglas Lake, Hedley, Keremeos, Oliver, Penticton, Vernon and Westbank in the south of British Columbia in Canada. In the USA it is spoken on the Colville Reservation in the north of Washington State.
In 2014 there were 190 native speakers of Okanagan in Canada, and another 170 semi-fluent speakers. In 2015 there were 230 Okanagan speakers in the USA, and possibly 2,000 people who speak it as a second language. The native speakers are all over 50 years old, and the language is no longer passed on in families. However, efforts are being made to preserve and revitalize the language. There are language classes for children and adults, and learning materials and resources are being produced.
Okanagan is also known as Colville-Okanagan, Nselxcin, Nsyilxcen, Okanagan-Colville, Okanagon, Okanogan or Syilx. Dialects include Sanpoil, Southern Okanogan, Colville and Lake.
Okanagan was first documented in the late 19th century by priests and linguists, who produced dictionaries, grammars and other material. It is written with a version of the Latin alphabet based on the American Phonetic Alphabet, which was developed by American anthropologists and linguists to transcribe the indigenous languages of the Americas.
Hear how to pronounce the Okanagan alphabet
We are the unconquered aboriginal people of this land, our mother; The creator has given us our mother, to enjoy, to manage and to protect; we, the first inhabitants, have lived with our mother from time immemorial.
Source: Okanagan Nation Declaration
Note: the sample text uses a different orthography to the alphabet chart above.
Information about the Okanagan Language
Page last modified: 10.12.23
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