New Brunswick·Ann's Eye

A look inside Fredericton's first Wolastoqey immersion school

You wish it, dream it, do it — that’s how Ann Paul describes Fredericton’s first Wolastoqey immersion school coming together.

Community effort results in outdoor lessons, language learning for kids

First Wolastoqey immersion and land-based school underway in Fredericton

11 months ago
Duration 3:16
Kehkimin — which translates to “teach me” — is aiming to help revitalize the Wolastoqey language in New Brunswick through land-based immersion education.

You wish it, dream it, do it — that's how Ann Paul describes Fredericton's first Wolastoqey immersion school coming together.

The Kehkimin Wolastoqey language immersion school is a product of small and large-scale fundraising, which included concerts across Canada by popular Indigenous musician Jeremy Dutcher.

CBC hired Paul to visit the school, which is operating out of Killarney Lodge's ground floor. She saw children's books written in Wolastoqey, kids learning what different toys are called in their language, and an elder starting the school day with a smudging ceremony. 

The school paid the City of Fredericton one dollar to use the lodge and its surrounding grounds, which provide land-based learning. Starting next year, the school will move into a nearby house, which the city has agreed to lease at one dollar per year until 2026.

The Kehkimin school name translates to "teach me." Watch the video above and scroll through Paul's photos below to see how that title is playing out in real life for Indigenous children.

Children play with toys in a classroom.
Even when kids are playing with toys, instructors speak to them in Wolastoqey. (Ann Paul/CBC)
The community's elders take turns teaching at the school. Here, Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay and the students start the day with a prayer, giving thanks to the Creator. (Ann Paul/CBC)
Four children's books spread out on a table.
Students are surrounded by the Wolastoqey language as much as possible, including in the books they read. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A woman points toward a small, white house.
While the Kehkimin Wolastoqey language immersion school operates out of the Killarney Lodge ground floor this year, it will move into this nearby house next year. The City of Fredericton will lease it to the school for a dollar per year, but the house is in need of serious renovations. The school is fundraising the cost of the repairs. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A woman sits on a porch, looking out a yard and trees.
Lisa Perley-Dutcher is the chair of the school's board of directors. The school is starting out with a curriculum for younger children, but in time, the community hopes to expand to older kids. (Ann Paul/CBC)
Wooden benches sit in a forest clearing.
"A sacred space," Lisa Perley-Dutcher called the school's outdoor learning area. When they first started putting the school together, she said the area was overgrown. Staff laid down some tobacco and asked the trees if they could use the space. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A white teepee sits outside surrounded by trees.
The door of the school's teepee faces east. Lisa Perley-Dutcher says that's because it's where the Wabanaki people originate from. "That's the good part of having Elders working with us, because they teach us these things," she said. (Ann Paul/CBC)
Left: Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay. Right: Elder & Language Keeper Maggie Paul. The school's website states almost all fluent Wolastoqey speakers are 65 years and older, leaving only a short window of time for them to help revitalize the language. (Ann Paul/CBC)
A graphic drawing shows an Indigenous woman holding a camera up to her eye.
(CBC News Graphics)


Ann Paul

Freelance contributor

Ann Paul is a Wolastoqey woman. Her name is Monoqan, meaning rainbow. She is a grandmother, a mother, a daughter, an auntie, a dancer, a singer and a teacher. Using her camera, she brings an Indigenous lens to stories from First Nations communities across New Brunswick.