Indigenous Languages in British Columbia

  • There are 34 Indigenous languages in BC, divided into 7 language families.
  • There are 2 language isolates spoken in BC, Ktunaxa and X̱aad Kil (Haida) – these languages are completely unique and not related to any other language in the world.
  • The 34 Indigenous languages spoken in BC today represent 60% of all the Indigenous languages spoken in Canada.
  • BC’s indigenous linguistic diversity is related to terrain and the natural abundance of the land. The rough geography (huge mountains, distant islands, etc.) made it difficult to navigate across large swaths of land as compared to the prairies, so people tended to stay closer to home and develop distinct languages. Plus, there wasn’t a great need to travel because of the abundant sources of food found in BC’s ocean, rivers, and forests.
  • Each language is uniquely shaped by the land it comes from, and uniquely contains scientific, historical, and cultural information about those lands that is not held anywhere else.
  • All of BC’s Indigenous languages were oral languages with no writing systems before colonization. Today unique writing systems have been developed for each of the languages.
  • All of BC’s languages are critically endangered – each have less than 1000 fluent speakers, and about half have less than 50 speakers.
  • However, the number of semi-fluent speakers is increasing, indicating that language revitalization efforts are working.
  • The First Peoples’ Cultural Council has an awesome interactive language map of BC  where you can find information on each of BC’s languages. Search
Distribution of the Seven First Nation Language Families in BC.                                                                     Source:

Distribution of the 10 Salishan languages to which Hul’qumi’num belongs.
Modified from


Compiled by Quentin Goodbody