Mmmmmm ʔapłsqʷii.

This delicacy is a type of smoked salmon (sort of kind of like a salmon jerky, but not exactly), that is Traditional to Nuu-chah-nulth People.  I just happen to be a lucky woman on Friday morning when I arrived at work in Port Alberni and an Elder was sitting in the lobby selling bags of ʔapłsqʷii, that he had made in his smoke house.  YES PLEASE!  My co-worker and I put our funds together and between the two of us $10 was found.

I was very fortunate during my time at Anacla, when I worked for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations,to learn the Nuu-chah-nulth alphabet and some words and phrases (the Nuu-chah-nulth alphabet is much larger than ours).  An Elder named Angie Joe came out every two weeks and taught a language class that was well attended by a core group of community members.  (I hear that class is still going and it warms my heart to receive such news.)  It was during those classes that I learned how to read and pronunciate the language.  I still struggle to spell the words though and my friend Rob Dennis Jr. helped me spell ʔapłsqʷii.

ʔapłsqʷii is a challenging word for me to say.  It has 3 sounds that are not part of the English language and those letters are ʔ ł qʷ, and the “ii” is pronounced as “ee” (I have linked it, but for some reason the audio doesn’t work when it’s linked.  However if you google “Nuu-chah-nulth alphabet, you will get this site and it does work).  People often pronounce it as “up-skwee”, but it’s slightly more complex than that.  More like “up-lth-skwee”… but the qʷ sounds comes from a deep part of your throat.  I have been practising the pronunciation since yesterday and I’m confident that it will come easier to me.

Every Friday on my drive to Port Alberni, I become emotional when I enter into Nuu-chah-nulth Territory.  It’s almost like I have arrived into the solace and security of a Great Grandmother, one that you can tell anything to and you’re free to feel whatever you want.  I find myself able to openly feel things that I normally contain and then easily let them go.  So by the time I get to work, as you can probably imagine, I need some nourishment to build up my strength again.  I’m not talking about a coffee or anything like that, but some real food that truly feeds me.  So to be surprised by this gift of ʔapłsqʷii not only was I fed, but as well I was shown again that Nuu-chah-nulth Territory is a deeply loving place that emanates comfort.  For those of you who have been to Tofino or Ucluelet, you know what I’m talking about.