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illustration for 'to spawn'

to spawn

Théwelhem is the Halq’eméylem word for a ‘to spawn’. Literally, it means ‘to beach one’s offspring’…


Théwelhem sounds like THOO-wull-um, except that instead of l you say the Halq’eméylem ‘hissy l‘ (lh).

To make the lh, start with a regular l, but ‘hiss’ a bit to create more friction, and stop the vibration in your throat.

Audio: Elizabeth Herrling, Elizabeth Phillips

-ing form

If you want to talk about spawning as an ongoing action (e.g. they are spawning now), then you can use a special form of théwelhem:

  • Some elders say  thethéwelhem for spawning (with partial doubling of the word).
  • Others say  tháwelhem for spawning (with a vowel change instead).

Both ways of making the –ing form are ‘correct’.  Audio for both forms is here.

Related words

Théwelhem appears to come from a root word chéw, which appears in many words related to the shore, sand, and beaches, as for example in:

  • Cháchewbeach
  • Chewōlhpcottonwood tree (these are common towards the shore)
  • Chowéthel – a place name, now on Katz reserve land

The reason théwelhem does not start with ch may be because at one point the word was borrowed from the Squamish language: where Halq’eméylem has th, Squamish has ch.

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