Ucluelet teenager completes third year of bachelor’s degree


Saanich, BC –

Despite being separated by a decade, Hjalmer and his younger brother Timmy have always bonded as best friends.

“We get along like a house on fire, so that helps! Hjalmer laughs.

“We’ve always been side by side,” smiles Timmy.

Their journey took a turn a few years ago when Hjalmer was recovering from brain surgery.

“I had to learn to read and write, walk and speak,” Hjalmer recalls.

The older brother must have tried to do all of this while attending college. So Timmy, who was then 10 years old, decided to postpone his schooling to support Hjalmer with his.

“I carried his bags and helped him take notes,” says Timmy.

“Over all [he was] tremendous support, ”adds Hjalmer.

Helping his big brother in his physical struggle was one thing. Supporting his mental health was another.

“It was really hard to see that person next to you [who’s] so hard to be weighed down by it, ”says Timmy.

So they started making weekly visits to First People’s House at the University of Victoria and Hjalmer began to feel a deep healing.

“When he was there [Timmy] I just fell in love with the power of Coast Salish language, prayer and song, ”says Hjalmer.

“I was really shocked at how much these elders knew,” Timmy says. “And from there, I desperately wanted to learn my language. “

With Hjalmer on the mend, Timmy returned to Ucluelet, BC, but was disappointed to find limited opportunities to truly learn the Nuu-chah-nulth language in elementary school. So, at the age of 11, he obtained special permission to take some university courses on the language.

“As I started to learn my language, I also felt very strong in my identity,” says Timmy.

This feeling forced Timmy to complete the language course, which made him eligible for teaching when he was only 13 years old.

“In grade 8, I started teaching the Nuu-chah-nulth language in my school,” Timmy smiles.

Timmy didn’t stop there. In grade 9, he convinced UVic to let him pursue a degree in language revitalization, which he obtained.

And by the time he graduated from grade 12 this year, Timmy had also completed the first three years of a bachelor’s degree in education.

“He’s trained generations with him,” says Hjalmer. “He asked us to accompany him on this trip.

Now the brothers are collaborating on the creation of music and dance videos like this one. It features Hjalmer’s sculptures, Timmy’s handwriting, and nuu-chah-nulth and English subtitles.

“We made it public so that everyone could learn from it,” says Timmy. “The first step in bringing the language back is having resources that people can use. “

“You can see how it is [inspiring] young people. I see my children speaking the language now, ”Hjalmer smiles. “It’s because of their uncle Tim who is still our little boy!”

A “little boy” whose big brother could not be more proud.


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