Saanich (SENĆOŦEN)

Saanich is a member of the Salishan family of languages. It is spoken mainly on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island in Canada, and also in Washington State in the USA. In 2014 there were seven native speakers of Saanich, and about 100 learners. The langauge is also known as Malchosen, Northern Straits Salish, Sooke, Straits or T'Sou-ke.

Efforts are currently being made to revitalize the language, including teaching it to children in school, and producing an app, online dictionary and other online material for learning the language.

The Saanich alphabet was designed in the 1970s by Saanich elder Dave Eliot (1910-1985). He realized that the lack of a standard written form of the language might lead to its eventually extinction, so he set about devising one, with help from a Victoria linguist. Previous spelling systems for Saanich used a number of letters to represent some of the sounds, resulting in very long, complicated words. Dave Eliot decided to design an alphabet that used a single letter to represent each sound. His invention was adopted by the Saanich Indian School Board in 1984.

Saanich alphabet and pronunciation

Saanich alphabet and pronunciation


Download an alphabet chart for Saanich (Excel)

Sample texts in Saanich



All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample text in Saanich


Sample videos in and about Saanich


Information about the Saanich Language

SENĆOŦEN Community Portal

Saalich Indian School Board

Salishan languages

Coeur d'Alene, Comox, Halkomelem, Klallam, Lushootseed, Lillooet, Nooksack, Nuxalk, Okanagan, Saanich, Salish, she shashishalhem, Shuswap, Squamish, Nlaka’pamux (Thompson)

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 23.04.21


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