The drive to preserve the Lil’wat language

In mid-March, Valerie St-Arnaud and her husband Dave Leveille found themselves hurtling cross-country in a large, black RAM Promaster van during not just a snowstorm, but also a burgeoning pandemic.

The couple had just purchased the van from Ontario and were in the process of bringing it back home to Pemberton.

“We were at our family’s house in Quebec and heard about social distancing, but we had to bring the van in 10 days because our registration was expiring,” St-Arnaud explains. “We did the road trip across Canada and there was no one on the road. It was just the two of us. We got back on March 23 just in time. There was a huge snowstorm and we were freaking out.”

Fast forward a few short months and not only has so much changed globally, but the couple has also completely transformed the van in that time.

On Thursday, June 18, the van officially began to fulfill its destiny as a mobile recording studio as part of Bonding Beaver Media—St-Arnaud and Leveille’s company that aims to foster and support the preservation of Indigenous languages through multimedia—when they travelled to the home of Lil’wat Nation elder Priscilla Ritchie to record.

“It’s beautiful,” Ritchie says about her first impression of the van. “It’s neat to have it come to my place instead of trying to find a way to get [to a recording studio].”

Read more: Squamish Chief

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